Facebook location service unlikely to have game component

The company's former privacy chief said a Facebook location feature is likely to be more practical

Facebook's former privacy chief said he doubts that any location-related services from the company will center on games.

"Not to denigrate check-in services that turn it into a game ... I'd be surprised if Facebook went in that direction," said Chris Kelly, Facebook's former chief privacy officer. Rather, a Facebook location feature is likely to be more practical, he said. Kelly spoke via video conference to attendees at the PII2010 conference in Seattle.

Kelly left Facebook about a year ago but was still affiliated with the company until earlier this year. He campaigned for the role of attorney general of California but lost the election.

Facebook has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday starting at 4:30 p.m. PT during which some people expect an announcement about new location features. In its invitation, Facebook said it would offer an update on "the service's features and products."

While Kelly didn't elaborate much on what he meant by describing a potential Facebook feature as practical, he offered an example of meeting up with another Facebook employee in London by simply updating his status to say he was in London. "I think that's going to be a lot of the product focus and it should be," he said.

If Facebook does launch a new feature using location, it could compete with services like the popular Foursquare, which turns updating user location information into a game by awarding people points for doing so often.

Kelly also broadly commented on his time at Facebook, defending the work that he did but also distancing himself from some of the privacy policies at the social-networking site.

"I made it clear from the beginning that there were certain things I disagreed with that the company did after I left," Kelly said.

Still, he said that many privacy policies at Facebook are misunderstood. "The constant refrain I saw was you put something up on Facebook and it's instantly available to everyone on the Net. That's not true today and it's never been true," he said.

The engineering resources Facebook put into enabling privacy choices "were immense and underestimated," he said. "It's easier to take a pot shot than to think seriously about what's been built there."

He also argued that criticism about the lack of usability of privacy controls available to Facebook users is misguided. Facebook has previously said that only around 20 percent of users adjust their privacy settings. "On Facebook, everybody uses privacy settings to some extent," Kelly said. He argues that simply accepting or rejecting friends constitutes using the available privacy settings.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
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