Friday, 3 September 2010

Don't panic!

As we know, Facebook often introduces new 'features', ideas, rules and all the rest. Some are positively beneficial, some less so. However, I'm a bit worried by the amount of warnings that fly around the place about these things which are, in themselves, inaccurate. So this is a quick plea to check it out before you go striking fear into the hearts of all your friends!

The latest culprit is the 'Places' Feature. Put simply, this enables you to post your location to Facebook - if you want to. If you 'check in to a place' using this feature, your location will be displayed. (For anybody who uses FourSquare, it has roughly the same effect - it's your way of saying 'this is where I am right now'.) It doesn't happen automatically "when you are logged in", as this posting puts it:

IMMEDIATELY!!!! Facebook launched Facebook Places yesterday. Anyone can find out where you are when you are logged in. It gives the actual address & map location ofwhere you are as you use Facebook. Make sure your kids know. TO UNDO: Go to "Account","Account Settings", ......"Notifications", then scroll ......down... to "Places" and UNCHECK the 2 boxes. Make sure to SAVE changes and re-post this message!!

This isn't accurate. The only way people find out where you are is if you actively use the Places feature to tag yourself in a place - not whenever you log in to Facebook. And, like all other features, you can choose whether to publish this (if and when you use it) to everybody, friends of friends, just friends or a selected list.

Not only that, but Places isn't yet available outside the USA anyway!! So those of us in the UK can't use this feature yet even if you wanted it.

And finally, following the instructions above wouldn't help in any case, as they would only stop you being notified of other friends tagging your location... it wouldn't stop the tag from happening. If anything, stopping the tagging is more of a security problem, as it stops you being alerted when somebody else has tagged you. [NB: you can also change your settings so that other people can't tag your location. See the link below for this explanation, too.]

For the real story (rather than the run-round-in-circles-panic-knee-jerk version) have a look at this very simple explanation on the Facebook help page.

And next time you read anything like this - before you repost it - please take thirty seconds to do a bit of research. You could save us all a lot of raised blood pressure!

PS: How do you spot something that's likely to be a hoax / inaccurate / deliberately designed to cause panic? In my experience, the more inflammatory the language and the higher the usage of exclamation marks, the less likely it is to be worth taking seriously...

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