Facebook's Places Application: Is Privacy Dead?
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Facebook's Places Application: Is Privacy Dead?

Facebook's Places application is a definitive invasion of privacy, and they didn't even ask!

We have all heard the dangers of the Facebook website, which is currently one of the most popular websites in the world, ranking up with Bing and Yahoo in monthly page views, and far above the nearest field competitor, MySpace. The Facebook profile allows you to put as much of your personal information as you want on the pages, including e-mail address, phone number, instant messaging screenname, personal websites, and even your home address (my home address space reads the following: "If you don't know where mine is, then you don't need to know"). Even more sinister and disturbing is the fact that if you wake up one day and realize that you don't want all your personal information on there, then archived versions of your profile page can still be accessed on search engines and are kept in Facebook's servers. What does this mean?


In the modern world we live in, this is not such a big deal, because just being a person is a relatively anonymous thing. On Facebook, you are a name among a sea of names. To prove my point, the name Dustin LaBarge, which is relatively uncommon in its complete form, appears four times on Facebook. It becomes a problem, however, if your name becomes something other than anonymous. Each profile has a profile picture associated with it, and Facebook has also added new features which search out posts about the searched name. Ironically, a current search for my name (before September 2010) would reveal a future time and date with accompanying location if someone was attempting to find me without my knowledge. Anyone, however, would be able to take names and find them by searching in the appropriate area phonebooks. There is plenty of information available on just about everyone, and it only takes one sinister person to put all the pieces together to make you regret releasing it.

Instead of recognizing the intrusion of data flow into people's lives, Facebook is progressing further down the open road with its Places application. Using this, a "friend" (hardly selective on Facebook) can tag you with a time and date location and announce it to the world. The world of Facebook revolves around having more friends, so this program makes it increasingly likely to be tagged. The worst part? The application is set on by default. That's right--if you have a Facebook profile, "Places" and "People Here Now" are currently open to the world unless you change those preferences in your privacy settings. Simply make Places visible to "Only Me" and uncheck the "Enable" box in order to do this. Twitter features a similar function by allowing you to place a location with your Tweets, but the entire effect is decidedly less sinister, because yes is not chosen automatically for you, and you are the only one that can tag your own location.

Most of us enjoy relative anonymity, because the world is a rather large place, and our faces don't show up as celebrity icons. Life is not static, however, and if your reality changes, you need to be aware of things that affect that reality. Imagine how Mel Gibson might feel if he came home from work and found 84 people had tagged him walking to work, being at a coffee shop, eating lunch somewhere, and driving home? Even worse, what if you had been victimized by someone who served their jail term, and now they are out surfing Facebook and memorizing your daily habits? If you don't enjoy having your privacy invaded, you now have the tools to remove that possibility.

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Comments (2)

Thanks for providing an invaluable information to save my privacy from impending threats and dangers from facebook.


Facebook privacy screw ups can only get you if you are actually a member of Facebook. So far no law has been announced declaring everyone must be on Facebook. Life is good.