The Wall Street Journal joins the ongoing conversation about social-networking site Facebook and its privacy policies, especially as they concern Facebook’s latest program, the location-tracking “Places.”
Places is a feature that lets users share their physical locations with Facebook friends, but it also allows users to identify friends at those locations. By default, each Facebook member can be tagged at a location by friends until the member changes his or her account’s privacy settings.
The result is that a Facebook member can use a smartphone to ‘check in’ at a nearby location and record that another friend is at that place as well, whether that person is actually at the location or not. That prompted some privacy advocates to advise Facebook users to disable the feature soon after its debut. […]
Facebook, which changed its privacy controls following a torrent of criticism in May, defended the new feature and said it had consulted a dozen privacy and safety groups before it went live on Wednesday with Places.
Tagging friends in status updates, Facebook said, was a norm on the website even before Places. With location, the company said, it added notification for the person being tagged and the ability to remove individual tags or turn off tagging completely. It also requires that the person doing the tagging place themselves at the location. […]
Many privacy groups said they were pleased that Facebook had limited Places to voluntary check-ins—rather than constant real-time tracking of users’ locations—and also that the service set defaults for much of the shared information to be limited to a user’s circle of friends.
Still, [some privacy grops] said Facebook didn’t give users adequate controls.
“After all of the privacy uproar earlier this year, Facebook is clearly thinking more about privacy—that is why we were surprised and disappointed that they did not resolve these issues that were technically possible,” said Nicole Ozer, the group’s technology and civil-liberties policy director.
She said Facebook should make it easier for users to control the feature that allows their friends to tag them at a location by providing a clear “don’t allow” option when a friend first tags them at a location. Currently a user can accept the tag or defer the decision. But if no action is taken, the default is for the information to be shared with friends.