Facebook Knows Where You Are

As expected, Facebook unveiled Wednesday evening its new location-based service at a news conference at its Palo Alto office.

It's called "Places" and it allows you to tell just about everyone where you are at all times of the day and night.

With location-based functionality in place, Facebook has made the increasingly popular technology available to its 500 million users. It allows the user to broadcast not only what you write in your profile, but also where you were when you wrote it.

Facebook says it is like a marking in time that will last for years to come. They also say it will allow friends to be able to get together without the need to text or call.

But Places could also ignite a privacy controversy. During a livestream of the news conference, a majority of online comments conveyed these sentiments:

  • "sounds like invasion of privacy. too close"
  • "Facebook is watching you"
  • "this is a great way to stalk ppl!"

With Places, Facebook is following in the footsteps of Foursquare, Gowalla and the much-buzzed about Shopkick. Each service offers the user the ability to "check in" at various locations, alerting friends they're sipping coffee at the corner cafe or chasing a hot prospect at the bar. Retailers have been able to use the service to offer shoppers discounts as well.

Foursquare was one of the companies that joined Facebook for the release.  It even took part in the news conference. "We’ll wait to see what the product looks like, play around with it and see if its something we want to integrate with," said Foursquare CEO Dennis Crow.

The chief executive of Gowalla Josh Williams was also there.  He said he saw Places as "an opportunity for additional distribution of our service."

Here's how it works.  You will use a Places "check in" button on your hand-held smartphone to check in and tell folks where you are. Your check-in will appear on that location's "place page," on your profile and in your friend's News Feeds.  For example, you could say you are at a coffee house or bar in hopes others will join you. Your friends will also be able to see if any other friends are nearby. You can also tag friends who are with you.

Facebook described it this way in it's blog:

If you're like me, when you find a place you really like, you want to tell your friends you're there. Maybe it's a new restaurant, a beautiful hiking trail or an amazing live show.

Starting today, you can immediately tell people about that favorite spot with Facebook Places. You can share where you are and the friends you're with in real time from your mobile device.

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