"Mark Zuckerberg has just checked in at Madison Square Garden." You're probably not friends with the Facebook founder, but if you were, you would know from his check-in that he's now at Madison Square Garden -- very convenient if you're going to the same show or sports event as Zuckerberg and want to say hello.
In this world of smartphones, the check-in feature is one of the newer, cooler applications -- it's not just about what we're doing, it's about where we are. About 20 percent of smartphone owners are using this type of app, according to a 2011 by research company ComScore [source: Olivarez-Giles]. The main service used is Facebook Places, though Gowalla and Foursquare are also popular.
So, what exactly is Facebook Places? It's a location-based service that lets you share your locations with people in your social network. It was originally introduced for the iPhone, but can also run on other mobile devices like the Android or the BlackBerry. To use it, download the Facebook application to your smartphone. If your smartphone has a GPS system, Places uses it to determine your location and possible places you can check in.
If you don't have GPS on your phone, or if you want to access Places from your computer, you can use the site touch.facebook.com. Obviously, you need Internet access either way. However, Places was really designed with the mobile user in mind. After all, you don't usually tote your laptop around to movies, clubs or other venues [source: Miller].
So, why use Facebook Places? Aside from the curiosity factor, it has other advantages. You can see which of your friends are nearby and arrange an unexpected get-together. You can stay current on events -- if, based on their check-ins, your local Facebook friends are going to a concert, you can join them. There are also consumer benefits. If your co-worker checks in at Macy's for a huge sale, you can join her to cash in on the savings.
However, a note of caution: By letting people know you've checked in at the movies, for example, you're also advertising your home is empty and for how long. Check-in services may enable cyberstalking (or even the real kind). And businesses can capitalize on your info via check-ins, spamming you with unwanted special offers. So, know the potential and check in wisely. On the next page, we'll show you how.
Facebook is a giant in the social networking scene. They currently have around 750 million users [ Source: Facebook]. Competitor Foursquare hit around 10 million users in June 2011, but they have a long way to go before catching up with Facebook [source: Tsotsis].
Facebook has always let you say where you were, but now it links you to a specific place. Here's how you do it:
- From your Facebook application, tap the "Check In" button.
- Select a venue from the list shown, based on recent check-ins from you and your friends, close to your current location. You can also find a new venue or add your own.
- If you want to, say what you're doing at this new location or check in other friends.
- Your check-in shows up on your friends' Newsfeeds.
But to paraphrase Ben Parker, Spiderman's uncle, great power brings great responsibility. Facebook Places is no different. There are several security and privacy options to manage your check-ins.
You can customize who sees your check-ins. Choose the "Hide this from" option in the "Custom" tab of your account's "Privacy Settings" to prevent unwanted viewers, such as your boss. With friends, Facebook sends you a request if someone tries to check you in. If you agree, that friend will check you in with them. But there's a catch – your approval gives check-in permission to any friend at any time [source: Ortutay].
Like many features, Facebook Places is easier to get into than get out of. If you want to disable it, it takes multiple steps. First, go to your account's "Privacy Settings":
- Click "Customize Settings;" look for "Things I Share," and select "Only Me" for "Places I check in to."
- In the same section, uncheck the "Include Me" in the "People Here Now" box.
- Under "Customize Settings," "Things others share," disable the "Friends can check me into Places" option.
- Under "Apps and Websites," click on "Edit your settings."Under "Info accessible through your friends," uncheck "Places I check in to."
- CBSnews. "Facebook Taking Users to Dangerous 'Places.' " (July 25, 2011) http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/08/25/earlyshow/living/parenting/main6804406.shtml
- CNN. "Facebook Introduces check-in feature." August 18, 2010. (July 12, 2011). http://articles.cnn.com/2010-08-18/tech/facebook.location_1_facebook-friends-facebook-executives-facebook-staff?_s=PM:TECH
- Gobry, Pascal-Emmanuel. "Facebook 700,000,000." Business Insider. May 31, 2011. (July 25, 2011). http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-700-million-2011-5
- Gross, Doug. "Facebook Places: Here's how it works." CNN. August 19, 2010. (July 12, 2011). http://articles.cnn.com/2010-08-19/tech/facebook.places.explain_1_facebook-places-gowalla-mobile-apps-facebook-app?_s=PM:TECH
- Ionescu, Daniel. "Geolocation 101: How it Works, the Apps, and Your Privacy." PCWorld. March 29, 2010. (July 19, 2011). http://www.pcworld.com/article/192803/geolocation_101_how_it_works_the_apps_and_your_privacy.html
- Miller, Patrick. "How to Use Facebook Places." PCWorld. August 20, 2010. (July 12, 2011). http://www.pcworld.com/article/203819/how_to_use_facebook_places.html
- Olivarez-Giles, Nathan. "About 1 in 5 smart-phone owners use check-in apps; Facebook to pcheck-in service, study finds." Los Angeles Times. May 13, 2011. (July 12, 2011). http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2011/05/about-1-in-5-smartphone-owners-use-check-in-services-foursquare-gowalla-facebook-places-google-place.html
- O'neill, Nick. "How to Use Facebook Places." AllFacebook. August 23, 2010. (July 17, 2011). http://articles.cnn.com/2010-08-19/tech/facebook.places.explain_1_facebook-places-gowalla-mobile-apps-facebook-app?_s=PM:TECH
- Ortutay, Barbara. "Where are you? Tips for using Facebook's Places." Associated Press. August 25, 2010. (July 12, 2011). http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38853013/#
- Pegoraro, Rob. "Facebook added 'Places' check-in feature." The Washington Post. August 18, 2010. (July 12, 2011). http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward/2010/08/facebook_adds_places_location-.html
- Swartz, Jon. "Facebook Places raises profile of check-in apps" USAToday. September 20, 2010. (July 12, 2011). http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/facebook-places-raises-profile-check-apps/story?id=11686184.
- Tsotsis, Alexa. "Foursquare now officially at 10 million users. TechCruch. (July 27,2011) http://techcrunch.com/2011/06/20/foursquare-now-officially-at-10-million-users/