Facebook Places rolled out to UK users today. This comes a month after the ‘global’ press launch a month ago. That’s the thing about the World Wide Web, people get disappointed when you say your product is only available in the US. But anyway it’s here now, so our tabloids can unleash the hounds, our social media experts can blog their hearts out, and I can finally find out where my ex-girlfriend gets her hair cut.
Please hold for media storm on privacy ..
This will be the topic of most discussion around Facebook Places and I think that’s a good thing. At least it will be if the discourse is informed, focussed, rational and avoids sensationalism – fat chance!
The US have already seen reports of burglars using Facebook – as it happens this turned out not to be anything to with Places specifically, as if that’s going to stop it being news. This is tabloid gold, but it’s not new to location based services. I particularly like the guy who stole a mobile phone, photographed himself and posted it to the phone-owner’s Facebook page! (can’t find link right now, sorry).
Don’t get me wrong, the privacy implications of Places are important, but the genie’s out of the bottle if you ask me. Zuckerberg’s more open and connected world is real, and [particularly for younger generations] if you choose not to share, you’ll find yourself out in the cold. This is just going to be day-to-day living from now on, and we’re still adjusting to it. Maybe we’ll be forever adjusting; maybe this is Future Shock.
I’m not going to analyse the privacy implications of Places any further. There will always be complacency; there will always be ignorant people, there will always be irresponsible tabloids, and there will always be corporations pushing you features you didn’t know you needed. If you’re smart you’ll look after your digital life the same way you look after any aspect of your life. The best we can hope for is that people are educated as well as possible by the media and by the companies that offer these features. Facebook have learned their privacy lesson the hard way, but they will always be prodding – they will always walk right up to the line and try not to cross it. Every now and then though, they will take a leap – Places is one of those leaps.