August 22, 2010

EIE President Comments on Facebook "Places"

Statement by EIE President Donna Rice Hughes: Facebook New "Places" Service Raises Safety Concerns
Donna Rice Hughes
President, Enough Is Enough®
Updated August 22, 2010

In a news conference last week, Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook's new geolocation service, "Facebook Places".  This feature allows Facebook users to share where they are and with whom they are with in real-time from the user's mobile device.  As we have seen with any new technology or application available, these features can be used for good or for harm. 

While geolocation based services are becoming very popular and can be used to connect with friends and local businesses in positive ways, parents should talk to their kids before allowing them to use this service or any of the other popular geolocation service.  If the teens using Facebook are 'friends' with people that they don't really know in the offline world, then posting their real-time location could open them up to being targeted by a stranger.  Parents and kids alike should understand that the "check ins" on Facebook are a choice, and any Facebook user will need to activate this application.  We would recommend, however, that younger teens on Facebook avoid using this service entirely. 

The "People Here Now" option included in "Places" shows users the other individuals who have checked into their same location, which could open a teen up to meeting other teens-which is not so scary-or adult strangers if they are connected as Facebook friends with people they do not really know in the offline world.  Currently, Facebook has implemented a special provision for minors, such that only Facebook friends will see when a minor is checked into the "Here Now" features.  A minor's name will also not be seen on a place's "Here Now" page by anyone other than the minor's friends.  Adult users, (or minors that are not honest about their date of birth -- i.e. pretending to be older than they really are) should be aware that the default is set allowing other individuals checked into a location (friends and non-friends) to see when you are checked in with them, and one must opt-out of appearing to the other users at their location.  

We strongly recommend that teens utilize the most restrictive settings available through this service and their Facebook profile itself.  This will allow users to control whether and when they are tagged at a place, and who sees their location.  Parents and other adults concerned with child safety should be aware of the peer pressure that some teens might experience who choose not to use the feature in order to better protect their privacy and whereabouts.   Bottom line, parents are the first line of defense and keeping the lines of communication open between parents and their teens will be increasingly critical as new technologies and features on existing technologies continue to come to market at lightening speed. 

Parents who familiarize themselves with this application and the privacy options before allowing their teenagers to use Facebook "Places" will be able to make an informed decision as to whether to allow their teen to use this feature and if so, to better ensure it is being used safely.  

We recommend a great article by Larry Magid to read about this feature in more detail.

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About Enough Is Enough®

Donna Rice Hughes is President of Enough Is Enough® (EIE), a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which emerged in 1994 as the national leader on the front lines to make the Internet safer for children and families. Since then, EIE has continued to pioneer efforts including the widely acclaimed Internet Safety 101SM program, which educates, equips and empowers parents, educators and other caring adults with the knowledge and resources needed to effectively protect children from pornography, sexual predators, and cyberbullies as well as how to keep kids safe on social networking sites, gaming and mobile devices.Contact Us for more information.  Media contact here.