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Privacy advice for Facebook's Places

by Eric Benderoff

Facebook's Places may be useful, but users need to be careful before activating the powerful location tool. Also, People Magazine introduces a new iPad app and pricing scheme, while Lollapalooza fans can hear special interviews from the show.

Protect yourself

There will certainly be a backlash regarding privacy when it comes to the new Places feature on Facebook's mobile app. The tool, part of the growing collection of location-based apps that allow users to check-in and broadcast their locations, is a dream come true for the creepy set.

So if you're going to use Places to let your friends know where you are and who you are with (the biggest security issue in my view), it would be a good idea to take some privacy precautions. The Electronic Frontier Foundation released privacy suggestions for Places on Thursday, and it is worth a read. And keep this in mind: If Places is broadcasting where you are, it's also telling people where you are not. That makes your valuables vulnerable, as Please Rob Me points out.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you use Places (or other location tools):

  • Do not use the "everyone" setting when telling people where you are. Only let Facebook friends who are real-life pals know your location. "You can use friend lists to exercise a more fine-tuned control over who can see your check-ins," notes the EFF.
  • Do you want your friends to check you into places? Do you know who all of their Facebook friends are? You can "permanently disallow check-ins by your friends by disabling 'Friends can check me in to Places' on the customize privacy settings page," according to the paper. "This is the most privacy protective option, since you will only be listed at a location if you affirmatively choose to check in."
  • Places makes it easier for law-enforcement to track what you have been doing. Just saying.

In general, the EFF says Facebook's privacy efforts with Places "represent a substantial improvement" over previous new products. "However, the settings are only good if users understand them intuitively and use them effectively."

Be smart, folks. These tools can be fun, but they include dangers many don't expect or can't predict.

People changes pricing model

The People Magazine iPad app was released on Thursday and it included a brand-spanking new pricing scheme: Free! Magazine content has been free on the Web for some time, but the iPad represents a new opportunity because there's a catch with the free People: You must subscribe to the print edition.

This is an experiment for publisher Time Inc., as Fortune Magazine points out on its Apple 2.0 blog, and it could extend to other titles such as Time, Sports Illustrated and Fortune. It encourages publishers to sell subscriptions on a new digital format, not just sell single copy issues for $3.99 or $4.99.

This is a test for Apple, too, as the iTunes store is not currently set up for subscription sales, an offering publishers have been asking for. To get the People iPad app -- double the number of celebrity photos! -- subscribers will get a verification code they can enter into iTunes. A People subscription costs $100 a year.

“People’s subscriber base is extremely loyal and pays a premium price for the magazine,” Martha Nelson, editor of Time Inc.’s style and entertainment group, told the New York Times. “We want them to have the ability to consume People content however they choose.”

Missed Lollapalooza?

Slacker Radio continues to add content to the special Lollapalooza 2010 station it created for the recently concluded Chicago music festival. The free Slacker Radio app, available for the iPhone and Android phones, now includes artist interviews and special song introductions recorded at the show. You can also hear this special content by going to Slacker.com/Lollapalooza.

The unique collection includes interviews with The Walkmen, Drive-By Truckers, The New Pornographers, Phoenix, The Antlers, MGMT, The National and the reunited Soundgarden.