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Facebook adding new Places feature to iPhone app


Facebook unveiled a location-based services feature called Places for its iPhone app at a media event late Wednesday.

At the event, covered by The Associated Press, Facebook showed off their latest feature, which allows users to "check-in" with their location. Upon checking in, users will be able to see who else is at their location and tag friends who are there with them. Using Places, businesses will eventually be able to claim their own locations and offer discounts or promotions to users.

The feature will be available through a free update of the Facebook iPhone app and at, Facebook's website for touchscreen mobile devices. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company plans to develop the feature for other smartphone apps later on.

Rather than competing directly with rival websites offering location services, Facebook is partnering with them, including several key startups, such as Gowalla, Foursquare, and Yelp. Badges and check-ins will carry over to and from these sites and Facebook.

Facebook, which has faced strong criticism in the past over user privacy issues, is taking a cautious approach with its launch of Places. According to Jules Polonetsky, co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum, Places "seems to logically reflect what users expect." Users will be prompted by the app to share their location, which will be available to friends by default.

Concerns have also been raised in the past about Apple's use of location services. In June, two US Congressmen demanded answers from Apple about a new "Location-Based Services" section of the company's iOS privacy policy. Apple quickly responded, explaining its policies. In its reply, Apple noted that, beginning with iPhone OS version 3.2, it had begun using its own databases for location-based services.