Facebook "Places" may reveal too much

By Nicole Bell - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Who knows where you are right now? If you're on facebook, chances are all of your friends and many strangers could find you this very minute. The new facebook "places" feature, not only tells people where you are, but where you're not, and that could be a problem.

It's easier than ever to stay connected. For some, that means broadcasting a play-by-play of their every move, online.

Newly launched facebook "places" puts the word out when a user checks in via cell phone from a given location.

The feature automatically popped up on Racquel Dozier's cell phone. She used it and immediately had second thoughts.

"It was like 'hmm. Maybe I shouldn't have done that now because people know I'm not home. They know exactly where I am,'" said Dozier.

Dozier says she's chatted with her teen son about the risks of charting his travel around town, online.

"A big concern of mine would be friends who say they're friends…bullying, sexual predators stalking your children," Dozier said.

The application not only lets people know where you are - it pulls up a map showing them how to get to your location.

There are similar sites out there, such as foursquare, that allow you to check in to places. But with facebook having more than half a million users some experts say the possible dangers involved with using the feature increases.

Salvatore Girgente is part of the high tech crime division with state police.

"The problem comes into play when you're not aware of it, but other people can see that information," Girgente said.

That's because friends can "tag you" and check you in - then, there's the possibility of strangers looking at what your post.

"So that you may think only your friends can see them but there are certain sites that allow your friends to allow friends to your site," he explained.

Girgente suggests becoming familiar with the site's privacy settings, and adjusting it to your liking.

"Be cautious," said Girgente. "It's not a game. It may be on a computer screen but it's not a game."

Facebook users can choose to skip the "places" feature by opting out.

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