Facebook location vs the ACLU

A lot has been said about Facebook’s new location feature, which is available via its iPhone client or HTML5 mobile web app. It’s a shrewd move, to be sure, and by now it’s clear that the company has ambitions to be the next decade’s tech behemoth. While Microsoft has a grip over stand-alone computing, Apple over mobile devices, and Google over search, Facebook has managed to become the de facto gateway for social information.

One indication of how powerful it is comes from the following article:

Places allows your friends to tag you when they check in somewhere, and Facebook makes it very easy to say “yes” to allowing your friends to check in for you. But when it comes to opting out of that feature, you  are only given a “not now” option (aka ask me again later). “No” isn’t one of the easy options.

This warning doesn’t come from a computer security forum, the EFF, or a group of interested hackers. It comes from the ACLU, the groundbreaking organization that aims to protect Americans’ civil rights. In other words, Facebook privacy is now being watched by the same group pushing for the closure of Guantanamo Bay. A powerful place to be – but perhaps an indication that Zuckerberg needs to re-assess his take on privacy?

In some ways, it doesn’t matter. Software projects like Status.net and Cliqset (Youtube link) are establishing a resilient, decentralized network where privacy is in users’ hands by default. These new applications are easy to use, accessible and ready for both private individuals and enterprises to pick up – and as such, represent the real future of social data on the web.

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