Geolocation—associating physical locations with social networking updates and posts—is a potential gold mine for both mobile and social networking services, in theory enabling users to find each other more easily, but also enabling them to tap into relevant local news, news, offers, and real-time information relevant to where they are. To that end, both Twitter and Facebook are reportedly on the verge of rolling out location-based features for their services…but questions remain about how location info will be used and how will users will be able to control when and how it is shared.
According to the New York Times, Facebook is getting ready to roll out geolocation services at its f8 developer conference next month. The service will apparently enable users to share their current location information with friends, and also make location information available to third-party applications so developers can leverage the data in their applications. Of course, Facebook cannot be ignoring the mobile advertising market: the ability to offer location information to advertisers may be a key component of Facebook’s geolocation strategy: advertisers will pay good money to be able to target consumers based on their location, including the ability to give special offers and incentives based on a users’ location.
Twitter appears to be moving even faster: the company has briefly enabled a location-sharing feature on its site, with an official unveiling expected to come as early as next week. Twitter has had an API for geolocation information up and running since last August: Twitter anticipates the feature will enable people to filter for tweets that are near their current neighborhood or city—something that might be particularly compelling for a major event of any kind. Twitter says users will been to specifically activate the feature, and it can be managed on a tweet-by-tweet basis.
Of course, privacy and security concerns abound when it comes to publishing location information. Remember that not only your friends and family read your tweets and Facebook feeds: scammers and criminals do too. If you tweet “Just rode the bus downtown to chill with some friends,” you really might be tweeting “Hey, I’m not home and no one is watching my car” to someone else. And while services like Twitter and Facebook might (emphasis ours) go to some length to ensure location information isn’t stored for long periods of time or accessible outside your preferred friends, you may never know whether the same is true to advertising partners and analytics firms eager to tap into location data.
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