Friday 29 March, 2013
Sources recently told Bloomberg that Facebook is planning to offer more location-based features for its users. One of these features is a tracking app that will be used to offer location-based ads. When you’re walking around downtown and checking out your news feed, you may see ads for downtown businesses on the sidebar. While this may be convenient for advertisers, it’s sure to get privacy advocates riled up.
For users, the app will tell you which friends are nearby and vice versa. In keeping with Facebook’s mission, you’ll be more connected.
Actually, Facebook’s intentions seem to be pure. For one thing, it’s trying to play catch-up with Google and Apple, which already have similar features (Google’s Latitude and Apple’s Find My Friends apps respectively). The company is trying to take advantage of mobile more since mobile use is on the rise. It’s also trying to make itself more attractive to advertisers. It has struggled to monetize since going public in 2012.
Why You Shouldn’t Get So Bent out of Shape
Across the blogosphere, tech bloggers are tearing Facebook a new one, calling it the new Big Brother along with lots of much nastier things. Privacy advocates are certain to go crazy as soon as the features go live. But there are a few reasons why nobody should get excited.
First of all, Facebook isn’t doing anything that goes against its stated policies. In its data use policy, it clearly states that it may use user data for marketing and advertising purposes. The policy also says it can use this data ‘to tell you and your friends about people or events nearby, or offer deals that you might be interested in.’
Facebook doesn’t want to irk its users. If the new features cause an uproar, as some other apps have in the past, the company is sure to cut it. Last year, it released an app called Find Friends Nearby which it quietly stopped a few hours after its release because of stalking fears. If people don’t like this new feature, it will probably do the same.
Besides that, Facebook already uses GPS tracking. It knows where you are whenever you post an update or photo. What do you think happens when you ‘check in’ to a venue? Technically speaking, Facebook already knows where you are.
Be Careful What You Publish
Finally, there’s a conundrum that’s becoming practically cliché in the hyper-social online world of today. When you supply information about yourself to Facebook, you publish that information on the web where anyone can see it. Especially young people tend to forget that. You’re telling the world where you are and what you’re doing. It’s up to you first and foremost to protect your privacy.
The sources said the new features are set to roll out in mid-March 2013. Several blogs have reported that Facebook declined to comment.