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Facebook Places: opt-out now or everyone knows where you are?

August 20, 2010

Facebook Places… what to say? Most of the criticism writes itself because we have been here before with just about every new ‘feature’ that Facebook introduces, and they seem to have learned absolutely nothing from any of the previous criticisms of the way in which they introduce their new apps and the control users have over them. Basically, Facebook Places is just like Google Latitude, but:

1. instead of having to opt-in to it, you are automatically included unless you opt out; and (here’s the really creepy part),
2. instead of just you being able to tell your ‘friends’ where you are, unless you do turn it off, anyone who is your friend can tell anyone else (regardless of their relationship to you) where you are, automatically.

Luckily we know how to turn it off, thanks to Bill Cammack (via Boingboing).

When, if ever, will Facebook realise than ‘opt-out’ is an entirely unethical way of dealing with users? It lacks the key element of active consent. You cannot be assumed to want to give up your privacy because you fail to turn off whatever new app that Facebook has suddenly decided to introduce without your prior knowledge. Facebook is basically a giant scam for collecting as much networked personal data as it can, which eventually it will, whatever it says now, work out how to ‘add value’ to (i.e.: exploit or sell), whether its users like it or not. And surely this is now the ideal time for an open source, genuinely consensual social networking system that isn’t beholden to some group of immature, ethically-challenged rich kids like Zuckerberg et al.?

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