Facebook Places could meet skepticism on college campuses

“You can only choose to turn the feature on or off,” according to the statement. “If it’s on, any Places user who checks in at the same place can see you in the Here Now list.”

The ACLU also launched a Facebook Places Resource page warning users about the potential for privacy violations, and charging that “unless you unchecked every single checkbox in the application privacy settings (or turned Platform off entirely), Facebook will allow your friends’ apps to access your most recent check-in locations by default.”

Wecker said college students would continue to be among the most likely to opt into geo-tagging services like Places, although similar programs like Foursquare haven’t caught on with teenagers and 20-somethings like other social networking programs.

“There is certainly a loss of privacy that comes along with dorm and campus life, and I think college students are in the demographic where it is cool to tell peers where they’ve been, and to keep an eye on where their friends have been,” he said. “That said, I think there are many people … who shun geo-tagging for safety reasons.”

About 5 percent of U.S. web users have used a location-based online service such as Foursquare, according to a recent survey released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Drawing students to geo-tagging applications with rewards for visiting a certain location enough can attract rabid followings among some groups, Israel said, but because Facebook Places won’t have these gaming features, developers will have to update the program when users become bored by it.

“It’s highly addictive, which means people spend a lot of time on it,” he said. “If its popularity trickles off, the people who make the technology will find a way to adapt it in a way” that will give Facebook Places staying power on campuses.

On Foursquare, for instance, Starbucks has offered a $1 discounts to the “mayors” of its local coffee shops—that is, people who check in the most often—as a reward.

A close look at college students’ reaction to Facebook privacy policies revealed concern about online identities as news outlets pushed the issue to the forefront with increasing coverage in 2009 and 2010, according to a report released this month. Researchers based their report on a survey of University of Illinois Chicago students conducted during the 2008-09 academic year and the 2009-10 school year.

Privacy setting changes could have been “connected to the public discussions that took place about the topic between 2009 and 2010″—which included daily news items about personal Facebook profile information that could be accessed by any web user—or the privacy prompts Facebook launched in December 2009.

The researchers found that Facebook members who used the site frequently were more likely to adjust their privacy options, showing that “technological familiarity matters when it comes to how people approach the privacy settings of their Facebook accounts.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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