Home Report: Location Sharing Is Coming to Facebook

Report: Location Sharing Is Coming to Facebook

Soon, you will be able to share your location with your Facebook friends. According to the New York Times’ Nick Bilton, Facebook plans to reveal this new feature during its f8 developer conference at the end of April. As Bilton notes, Facebook updated its privacy policy last year to incorporate language about location sharing. Facebook, according to this report, has been working on this feature for over a year. The company will offer location-based services through its own mobile applications and developers will be able to use this data to develop their own location-based apps on top of a new Facebook location API.

How Will Facebook’s Users React?

It will be interesting to see how Facebook’s users – who are famously averse to change – will react to the arrival of location as a status update on the service. According to Bilton, Facebook “has been trying to figure out how to add location data to its service without raising potential privacy concerns or negative feedback from its users, as it has in the past with new features and redesigns.”

From Facebook’s Privacy Policy:

Location Information. When you share your location with others or add a location to something you post, we treat that like any other content you post (for example, it is subject to your privacy settings). If we offer a service that supports this type of location sharing we will present you with an opt-in choice of whether you want to participate.

When Facebook introduced the newsfeed (which is now an integral part of the service), a large number of users considered this to be an invasion of their privacy. Location-based services have long suffered from the impression that sharing your location online can be dangerous and services like the Foursquare-based PleaseRobMe have only strengthened this sentiment among many users. Even though Facebook offers relatively sophisticated privacy controls, it will be interesting to see if the service’s users will warm up to the idea of sharing their location with their friends. A lot of the success of this service will depend on how well Facebook can educate its users and how it implements this feature and the privacy controls around it.

Will Facebook’s Users Care?

It will be interesting to see if Facebook’s users are even interested in sharing this information. While services like Foursquare and Gowalla are slowly but surely gaining new users (in part thanks to offering incentives for checking in at various venues), Twitter, which introduced a geotagging API last year and just introduced some location features on its website today, hasn’t seen a very strong response from users and developers so far.

Not Competing with Foursquare and Co.?

According to the New York Times report, Facebook isn’t trying to compete with location-based networks like Loopt, Gowalla and Foursquare, however. Instead, Bilton argues, the company is far more interested in competing with Google for small-business advertising. This will surely raise additional privacy concerns among Facebook’s users.

It’s also important to note that Facebook’s API, will allow intrepid developers (including Foursquare, Gowalla and Loopt) to develop interesting location-based services on top of Facebook, however.

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