Facebook emphasises privacy as Places debuts in UK

Facebook has launched the geolocation service Facebook Places in the UK, claiming the protection its privacy setting offers is "unprecedented in the industry", with children given special protection.

Facebook Places: launches in the UK
Facebook Places: launches in the UK

Facebook Places UK is identical to the US service. It allows friends to check-in and share their locations with each other and comes with a default setting of friends only.

Michael Sharon, Facebook product manager for Places, said the security setting ensured Facebook users were fully in control of their privacy. Users could allow, for instance, friends of friends to see their Places information.

Privacy settings for minors, those aged 13-17, are particularly stringent. Facebook said it had "built special, robust protections for minors". These settings default to friends only and can not be changed.

Facebook Places launched in the US last month. The UK is the first country in Europe to get the service with plans to roll it out to the continent in the "near future".

As in the US, the service is available via the Apple iPhone and the web. Facebook has not yet set a date for when it will become available on Blackberry and Android phones.

Its rollout to the UK is likely to see Facebook Places become the default geolocation service for many mobile users, hitting services like Foursquare.

For the launch Facebook is again partnering with Booyah, Foursquare, Gowalla and Yelp, as it did in the US.

No additional partners have been announced for the UK launch, with the only difference being, Sharon said, the local data providers.

He also said Facebook Places had grown out of the way people were already using the social site to share information about their current location with friends.

Sharon said: "Facebook Places formalises…that process. It is the beginning of how we weave location into our everyday lives."

Facebook Places currently offers advertisers no additional options but it makes advertising on the site increasingly attractive and encourages users to use it more on the go.

At present advertisers can target, for example, London as a keyword for those people tagged with that term. They cannot target a page tagged London as only the owners of a page can target their fans.

Facebook Places in summary

  • Users have full privacy control and can customise their security settings and amend them from a mobile device.
  • Check-ins are defaulted to friends only (unless your master setting is everyone) and minors will not appear in posts or check-ins to anyone but friends. You can also always remove any check-in from your phone or on the web.
  • If you have given your friends permission, they can check you in by tagging you in a place where they are also checking in. This setting can easily be disabled in your privacy settings.
  • If you prefer not to appear in the ‘People Here Now’ section on a place page after you check in, you can uncheck the appropriate box in your privacy settings.
  • Users can report any Place on the web or through the iPhone application.
  • Only a minor’s friends will ever see when a minor checks in, and in updates that involve minors, the minor’s name will only show to the minor’s friends. Facebook is also restricting who can see minors in the ‘Here Now’ section on the Place’s Page so that minors will only ever show up to their friends.