This article was published on March 26, 2010

Facebook Backpedaling On Location Services?

Facebook Backpedaling On Location Services?

Has Facebook given up on location-based services or are they preparing something truly new?

An announcement posted to Facebook’s official blog today briefly mentions editing the site’s terms and conditions to account for a change in a future location feature. Rather than potentially allowing users to geotag posts (like any of a number of social networks), Facebook suggests that they’re going to adopt the concept of a “place,” such as a business’ fan page. Facebook asserts that this is a novel approach to location.

Is it really that novel, though?

Sure, it will certainly provide users of the service an increased amount of information about the places their friends are visiting. The question is, simply put,  is this service really that much different from Google Buzz’s location services? The answer appears to be a little murky.

While the “places” concept has an interesting slew of uses, such as potentially blocking location data in sensitive places (home, office, etc.), it also seems geared towards providing more targeted advertising than is already available on the site. Since advertisers can purchase ads geared towards users based on age, network and other personal factors, this seems like a logical next step. By providing incredibly focused advertisements, such as giving restaurant patrons checking their Facebook ads for the ice cream place next door, Facebook hopes to be able to charge advertisers even more steeply.

By doing so, Facebook could run roughshod over privacy. Sure, location-based services have progressively been moving towards these hyper-focused ads, but that doesn’t make their arrival any less concerning. If Facebook keeps its current opt-out sharing model, less-savvy users will inevitably share more than they’d like to. While some users are okay with spreading their location data all over the web, many of us want some parts of our lives to remain our business alone.