Facebook Location Feature: Pros and Cons

Retailers might love it if Facebook offered location-based services, but doesn't the site have enough privacy complaints

As if Facebook wasn't habit-inducing enough, the social network is reportedly planning a location-based feature that lets users "check-in" at real-world businesses and points of interest.

TechCrunch found hidden code for the location feature on Facebook's touch screen-formatted Web site, and believes a new "Places" tab will show nearby venues, to which you can check in and make your presence known to the world.

Is this a good thing, or a reason to stay far, far away from Facebook? Here a few reasons to be simultaneously excited and terrified:

Pro: Deals Galore

The service TechCrunch describes sounds similar to Gowalla, which lets users check-in to points of interest and collect discounts at businesses. If Facebook did something similar, more businesses are sure to participate thanks to the extra exposure the social network would bring. Facebook would also have more clout when negotiating with major corporations, possibly resulting in better deals for you.

Con: The MySpace Effect

As Facebook's user base grows, the site tends to crush its competitors. It's not yet clear whether Facebook is working with other location-based services, such as Foursquare or Gowalla, and to what extent, but I'm guessing they'll have to change fundamentally once Facebook has its own service. Twitter is also rolling out its own geolocation feature, but it already seems destined to live in Facebook's shadow.

Pro: Your Network's Already There

No more convincing your skeptical friends that Foursquare is where its at. A location service from Facebook would become instantly familiar to people who already belong to the social network, that alone will make geolocation services a lot more fun to use.

Con: Privacy, Of Course

With Facebook facing a backlash over recent changes that share information about your activity on select Web sites, and an unrelated snafu that exposed users' private chats, it's natural to worry that geolocation features from Facebook could venture beyond your comfort zone. I just hope the service is opt-in, and that Facebook clearly explains to users how their location information will be used.

This story, "Facebook Location Feature: Pros and Cons" was originally published by PCWorld.

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