What is it?
Facebook describes it this way:
Places is a Facebook feature that allows you to see where your friends are and share your location in the real world. When you use Places, you’ll be able to see if any of your friends are currently checked in nearby and connect with them easily. You can check into nearby Places to tell your friends where you are, tag your friends in the Places you visit, and view comments your friends have made about the Places you visit. Use Places to experience connecting with people on Facebook in a completely new way. link
In other words, its a bigger and instantly more popular version of Fourquare, Gowalla, and Yelp. With 97 million American teenagers owning a mobile phone, this has the potential to be huge.
Facebook has a very well done FAQ are for Places, I’d recommend checking it out and educating yourself.
How to Adjust Privacy Settings
For most people, your default settings are going to be fine. By default, you can use a mobile device to tell your friends where you are at. Additionally, by default you are allowing Facebook to point you to other people who are checked in at the same place.
For people into social networking, this is fine. I actually like that if I check-in at Starbucks I can know who else is there because I might actually like to have a conversation with them. It doesn’t creep me out that I could check-in at Ikea and 20 other people in Ikea who aren’t my friends could know I’m there.
But a good majority of people don’t use Facebook for social networking. They use it for existing friend connections. In other words, while Facebook is designed to help you expand your network by meeting new people, there are tons of people who want to “protect their privacy” and not network with anyone outside of people they know if real life.
That’s a personal choice and Facebook allows for that. (Even though its outside of the original design of Facebook, they’ve made concessions.)
Now, let’s adjust those settings!
Step one: Go to the Privacy Settings tab in your account settings. Here’s the link. This is an overview of all of your general settings.
Step two: Click on “Customize Settings.”
Step three: Scroll down to “Places I Check In To” and click “Customize.” This will bring up a box where you can select exactly who you want to see where you check in at. If you just want to play with it to get used to it, but don’t want other people to see it, change it to “Only Me.” Changing it to “Only Me” is as private as it gets if you want to check in places. You’ll notice you can also block specific people from seeing where you check in at. Think about who you want to block specifically and list them there. When you are done click “Save Setting” and you are done with this step.
Step four: Enable or disable the “Here Now” feature. If this whole thing creeps you out, I’d suggest disabling this setting. But also keep in mind that if you want any of the cool freebies that retailers/restaurants may come up with for checking it, you’ll need to keep this enabled. (I’ve gotten plenty of free stuff by checking in via Yelp and even Twitter.)
Step five: Scroll down to “Friends can check me in to Places.” This is probably the feature that will get the most people in trouble and will make people the most angry. Say you sit down for lunch at work with a co-worker. You check in and you tag that person as being with you. Now, if you didn’t have that persons permission, all of their friends know that they have checked in at a place because that check in posts to their wall. Also, if they haven’t adjusted their settings in step four, now anyone on Facebook at that location can know they are there. On the other hand, if you feel good about your selections on step three than this is no big deal.
Done. You can go back to your profile, having adjusted your Places privacy settings to your liking.
What does Adam recommend?
Bear in mind that I’m a pretty open person. But I still value some levels of privacy, particularly because I’m a husband and father. Truth is, I don’t even anticipate using this feature unless I’m somewhere cool and want to brag that I am there.
Here’s my selections for the steps above:
Step three: I’ve selected “friends only.” I do wish I could select by groups of people. Because I have a friend group labeled “People I Haven’t Met Yet” and I’d prefer that they couldn’t see my location. But until Facebook fixes that, I’m going with “friends only.“ UPDATE: If you have a friend group you’d like to exclude from your check-ins, you can just type them in the field “Hide this from these people:” Here’s what it looks like on my privacy settings page. I’d recommend NOT choosing “friends of friends” because that basically opens up your location to anyone in the world.
Step four: I’m a big fan of getting free stuff. So I’m keeping this enabled because it doesn’t bug me and I’ve enjoyed many a free meal. There will soon be lots of iPhone applications that call to this so I want to see where it goes.
Step five: I feel pretty good about step three. And I also feel pretty good about the places I go and the people I go to them with. So I’m going to keep this enabled for now. Let me tell you though, if someone false checks me in somewhere shady and we’re going to talk. This little feature is going to land a whole heap of people in a whole heap of mess. So, if you aren’t sure about all of your friends, I’d recommend disabling this one.
Some Places Etiquette
- Never, ever, EVER check-in at home. I want to hit people in the shins with a hammer when I see that. Not only are you broadcasting to people where you live, complete with Google Maps directions, you are also telling people that you are home… and when you check-in someplace else, you are tell them YOU AREN’T HOME! Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
- Only check-in at public places. Just like it’s dumb to check-in at your house, it’s really rude to check in at your friends houses. Checking in at a private residence is rude, even if the person says they don’t care. Just don’t do it.
- Always ask before checking in your friends. It’s just polite. Maybe they don’t want their friends knowing they had a latte while at work? Just ask.
- Check-in sparingly. I know it feels like a game. And games are meant to be won, right? But if you check-in to places 20 times a day you look really, really lonely. My rule is that I only want to check-in places that I think are cool. Sea World? Cool. The local gas station? Not cool. Since I like tiny, family-run businesses… I’m going to check-in at a lot of those because I know it helps them out. I think mom and pops are cool.
- Be weary of promotions. With 500 million users and integration into Google Maps retailers are going to go nuts trying to get you to check-in. (As a Google Adwords user, let me tell you… Google is going after us to do promotions!) Don’t be surprised to see deals popping up everywhere. A check-in deal is fine to me. But if I have to tag a bunch of people or write a specific status update to save $5… that’s too far. Don’t subject your friends to that.
- Never check-in anywhere after 10:00 PM. Remember when mom said that nothing good happens after 10 PM? If you are out with your friends, it is just better to not check-in. Nothing good is going to come of it.
- Remember: Everything you post online is public! All check-ins, all that GPS data, all those tags, all those status updates… they are ultimately public information. You parents can see it. Your boss can see it. The college admissions office can see it. Your significant other can see it. Your future mates can see it. Your children will be able to see it. Even if you’ve made all of your settings private, that data all ultimately belongs to Facebook and they can do with it whatever they want. (And it could always get stolen from them!) If you don’t want those people to see it… don’t post it.