Can you trust Facebook Places?

How long will it be before Facebook's new check-in service, Places, starts sharing your movements with the world?

Facebook, the company many people don't trust to protect their status updates and personal information, is now in the business of collecting location information, thanks to the introduction of its Foursquare/Gowalla killer, Facebook Places.

Like those other services, Facebook Places will let you "check in" to various spots in the real world via cell phone (mostly iPhones, at first), tell your friends where you are, and see if any of them are there too.

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So not only does Mark Zuckerberg know who you are, where you live, what school you went to, what religious and other affiliations you have, and what you think on a daily or even hourly basis, he also knows where you like to drink $4 double mocha frappuccinos and eat McFatty burgers.

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Don't look now, but some sweaty billionaire in a hoodie is following you.

Remember, Zuckerberg is the guy who once called other people "dumb fools" for sharing their email and photos with him (only he didn't use the word "fools"). He also more recently opined:

People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.

Of course, just like Facebook itself, nobody is forcing you to use Facebook Places, just as you aren't forced to use Foursquare, Gowalla, or any of the other location check-in services Places is about to crush.

And this time out, Facebook is being a little bit smarter about privacy. By default, location check-ins are limited to people in your friends list, though you can change the setting to "Everyone" if you feel like it. You can get more granular by using Facebook's lists feature to create groups of friends who can -- or can't -- view your check-ins. Your friends can "tag" you as also being at a location, but you'll have to approve the tag before they can broadcast your location to anyone else. Once you say yes, though, they can tell the world where you are whenever they feel like it, until you opt out.

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