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Thursday, August 19, 2010

How to disable Facebook Places

If, like me, you have no desire or intention to continuously broadcast your location to the world through Facebook — or permit others to do so for you — I strongly encourage you to join me in disabling Facebook Places.

Big Brother AvatarDespite having been advised repeatedly to make its data-collecting "features" function under an opt-in model, Facebook, under the "leadership" of Mark Zuckerberg, continues to do exactly the opposite. Consequently, netizens wishing to protect their privacy must take action.

Props to the ACLU's dotRights Project for their efforts to hold Facebook Big Brother accountable. In typical Facebook fashion, it's not possible to shut down Places by clicking one master off switch. Instead, you have to uncheck a box here and change a setting on a dropdown menu there. This is by design, of course.

The instructions:

Adjusting Check-In Visibility, Turning “Friend Check-Ins” and “Here Now” Off
  1. Go to your privacy settings page and select “customize settings.”
  2. Adjust your settings:
    1. To adjust who can see your check-ins, use the pulldown next to “Places I Check-In.”
    2. To disallow friend check-ins, disable the "Friends Can Check Me In To Places" option.
    3. To disable Here Now, uncheck the “Include me in 'People Here Now' after I check in” box.
Preventing Your Friends’ Apps From Receiving Your Places Info
  1. Go to your privacy settings page and select “edit my settings” under the “Applications and Websites” title.
  2. Select “edit settings” next to “info available through my friends.”
  3. Uncheck the "Places I've Been" box.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center and Electronic Frontier Foundation have also weighed in with their concerns about Facebook Places.

FutureLawyer, meanwhile, offers a compelling reason to turn off Places:
I can see the litigators salivating now. The first question in every deposition will now be: "Do you have a Facebook Account?" And, the next question will be: "Do you have the Facebook Places location service turned on?" Of course, to use a person's wanderings in litigation, relevance and materiality objections will have to be navigated. However, in a discovery deposition, you may ask questions that solicit any answer that may lead to the discovery of relevant evidence. I have a modest proposal for you; tell your kids, and your significant other, and your clients, and anybody you know to politely decline Facebook's kind offer to track your location, and the location of all of your Facebook friends. It could get ugly out there.
Ugly might be an understatement, because Facebook didn't create adequate safeguards to prevent people from adding homes to its Places database.

Here's Ars Technica:
Sex blogger and educator Violet Blue posted a transcript of Facebook's announcement wherein Zuckerberg was questioned over whether users can remove their homes as a "place" if others have added it to the database without the user's consent (during a party, for example). The response is fumbling at best—a Facebook engineer said that people should only be adding places that are public, duh — and Zuckerberg said the only recourse is to flag it for removal. However, if only one user flags an item, it's unlikely to be removed, therefore exposing a user's address to anyone else on Facebook indefinitely.
Ready, fire, aim! That seems to be Facebook's motto. They still haven't learned their lesson after the last dustup. Leaving defensively-worded comments on blog posts about Facebook Places isn't an effective way for the company to build goodwill, either. Why don't they try listening for a change?


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