Where you at?

Facebook plans to add a feature that would let you keep tabs on your friends’ locations (and vice versa).  Like many of Facebook’s tweaks in recent years, this isn’t original – many of the next wave of social networking tools are location-based.

Details are still forthcoming, but the evolution of location data in social networking will be particularly interesting.  As Facebook has learned – and as Google found out when it unveiled its Buzz tool – just because we like to share stuff about our lives doesn’t mean we want to surrender our privacy.  In fact, we want to have the opportunity to separate a little from our digital selves now and again.  Location data chips away a little bit more of that wall.

The utility is pretty clear for businesses, politicians, social butterflies, and other folks who want to be found.  (And it’s also pretty clear for Facebook, which can now allow brick-and-mortar stores to serve ads to people near their physical location.)  To make it worth their while, Facebook and others would be smart to make location data available as a one-way street: to let me find out who’s close to me without letting them know where I am.

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