In advance of Facebook’s annual developer conference next month, reports have begun to materialize about a seminal new feature that the social networking service may roll out: location sharing. Although there’s no official word from the company yet, the speculation is that Facebook will be introducing features that allow users to share their current location with their friends and allow applications developers to offer location-based services to Facebook users.
If the rumors are true, this will no doubt represent a watershed moment for the nascent location-enabled Web. With hundreds of millions of users who log on each day, the potential for a dramatic increase in the amount of location information shared online is sweeping. Because so many Facebook users access the site from mobile devices like smartphones and laptops that can be automatically located based on wireless signals or GPS, it’s not hard to imagine location data quickly and automatically populating news feeds, wall posts, and posted photos.
How Facebook decides to incorporate privacy protections into its new location features will have an obvious impact on whether the Facebook user community embraces location-sharing. Unfortunately, the story of location privacy on the Web thus far hasn’t quite been a fairytale.
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