Facebook Places is the talk of the web this week.  The friend finding site is now letting you literally find your friends wherever they may be with the new geolocating tool.

A cute video explaining how awesome it will be to have “serendipitous” moments with friends was posted.

And they even took a few shots at Foursquare with the Places icon.  (Look at the base of the stick pin – isn’t that a number 4 in a square?  Ouch.)

I admit I’m a little cynical when it comes to the geolocating apps.  I splashed in when they first launched and the novelty quickly faded.  For me, they’re more useful for tourists as opposed to chasing acquaintances (then again, I’m a father of 2, not a bar star).

Foursquare is most likely dead in the water with this latest Facebook feature.  The former leader in geolocating and social networking will be squashed by Zuck faster than Tom and all his friends on MySpaceFacebook is the internet for the vast majority of people – people who most likely have never even heard of Foursquare – and the stampeding herd of Farmvilling lemmings will plow right into this new feature without giving a blink.

And that’s the problem, because when it comes to privacy, Places is another face palm from Facebook.

Remember earlier this summer when Facebook did a mea culpa on their privacy settings?  Everything was supposed to be streamlined.  Settings were going to be easier to understand, privacy was going to simpler to protect – Facebook were going to be good guys.

Well, that lasted a few weeks anyway.

DotRights.org has a good discussion of some of the privacy issues that Facebook has left wide open with the initial release of Places.

It’s no secret the geolocating data will be used to better target ads to users, and the breadcrumb trail you leave with your daily check ins will be shared with advertisers.  It’s not just your friends that will know where you go, it will be the beer company, the restaurants, the dry cleaners.

The Vancouver Sun has already exposed that not only is Facebook Places a default option for people, but that people can tag you without your permission.

The big problem with Facebook Places is that many of the problems that could arise with privacy are default options.  If you don’t want people to tag you, if you want your checkins invisible, you have to manipulate that privacy menu tree to get things right.

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.
  4. [from DotRights.org]

(AllFacebook.com also has a great guide to privacy settings for the new Facebook Places)

The best news from all of this is that Places is still only available to US users (although you will see the icon in the updated Facebook App in Canada).  Facebook is slowly rolling out the service to subscribers – hopefully giving them time to fix the privacy issues.

What are your thoughts on geolocating apps? Did you find Foursquare useful? Are you eager for Facebook Places in Canada? Will you turn the default settings off?

catch the buzz … pass it on.

buzz bishop future shop tech blogThis post was originally published at The Future Shop Tech Blog.

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