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Facebook Places A Bet Against Google

With its new location sharing capabilities, Facebook aims to redraw the local search map.
Facebook product manager Michael Sharon offers the same reassurance in a general interest blog post. "With Places, you are in control of what you share and the people you share with," he wrote.

The ACLU of Northern California, however, isn't buying it and claims that Facebook has failed to include important privacy safeguards.

The civil liberties group argues that Facebook makes it easy to agree to allow friends to tag you but doesn't provide an easy enough way to opt-out. It also argues that users don't have enough control over who can see their location in the "Here Now" list, which is turned on by default.

As it works with partners including Gowalla, foursquare, Yelp and Booyah, Facebook Places appears to be destined to compete with compete with Google Places, the search company's location service for businesses.

Google last month introduced its Places API to allow developers to add information about local businesses and points of interest to map-related applications.

Gartner analyst Ray Valdes characterizes Facebook Places as a necessary defensive move to address the growing popularity of location services like foursquare and Gowalla. "It was actually a pleasant surprise that Facebook didn't try to stomp out this ecosystem," he said in a phone interview. "Instead, it gave them some wiggle room and an opportunity to innovate to stay ahead of the juggernaut."

In time, Valdes expects Facebook's focus to shift from user engagement to driving revenue through Places, at which point competition with Google Places could become more pronounced.

"Google has been extending the scope of its coverage from the Web to the real world, along with others," he observed. "They're moving not only from Web content to the social Web but to the Web of things and places in the real world. Facebook Places has more of a social dimension while Google Places is more focused on the information dimension. But eventually the two services will converge and become directly competitive."

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Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer