Facebook Places launches in the UK, get ready for the media storm

Facebook’s geo-locational service Facebook Places is now working in the United Kingdom. I just got out of a press conferenvce which was a essentially a re-run of the US launch. It would appear that little is different about the operation of Facebook Places in the UK compared to the US launch other than the geo data itself of course.

Facebook Places product manager Michael Sharon walked British media through the service. As expected, British media started asking questions about privacy and the protection of minors, so expect them to hone in on those aspects.

But outside of the shrill cries about how people will suddenly start to stalk you, I was quite interested in why Facebook even allows minors to share their location in the first place.

The grown-up answer is that many young people do anyway already, so it’s really the controls you give them that matter. Here’s Facebook’s response:

“Our minors are teenagers aged 13-17 and we expect that this group will want to use location-based services. We believe that it is sensible to make available to them a safe service with appropriate protections like ours rather than deny them access altogether.

For most content teenagers under 18 are restricted to posting only to friends of friends. For location content we have gone one stage further and made this friends only recognising the additional sensitivity around this data.”

In other words, assuming a Facebook profile has the correct age in it, that minor will have extra levels of protection abou their location compared to adults.

And as tech journ LJ Rich pointed out at the conference, there nothing to stop adults adjusting their age on Facebook to get the same protection as a minor.

If you are in the UK and you’d like to find out more about Facebook Places or how to claim your Places venue, you can read more here.

This is Facebook Places’ first full on launch in a European country after having launched in Japan last week. Users have previously reporting the ability to check in from places like Canada and even Paris due to a wifi glitch.

Notably, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg left a trail of Facebook Places check-ins on a recent trip to London.

Additional reporting by Alexia Tsotsis