Location Based Social Networking: You in?

Location based social networking is growing at an exponential pace. A number of different social networks, tools and games have started to appear everywhere. Facebook has thrown its hat into the ring and just might be the 800 lbs gorilla though. All of this begs the question. Are you going to start doing location based social networking?

There have never been more options for location based networking. Besides Foursquare and Facebook of course, newer and less established social networking players are popping up everywhere. Gowalla and Plixi are two examples. Never hear of them before? Neither did I until today but they’re growing.

What is unique about location based social networking in comparison to plain old social networking is that to do it, you need a smartphone. After all, these services use the integrated GPS in smartphones to “check in.” No smartphone? No location based social networking (LBSN).

As far as companies interested in harnessing the technology to boost profits are concerned, LBSNs have a potential but clear advantage over other social networks. Smartphone owners are, on average, better educated and wealthier than the average internet user. And to actually use LBSNs, you have to physically go places. Think stores to buy the stuff LBSN advertisers are peddling.

In a society where we are constantly checking Facebook, posting stuff and then endlessly Tweeting about it, LBSNs might just end up extremely popular. If someone is going to bother to Tweet that they are eating lunch at a restaurant, then it’s pretty easy to assume that they will of course check in from the location. We just really like to talk about ourselves don’t we?

However, there are dangers to LBSNs. Unless you are content to just look at where others are, you have to give up quite a bit of privacy. Criminals have started making fake Facebook accounts to gain access to relatively private information about individuals with the intention of using that information in the commission of a crime. Posting about a vacation could just get your house robbed while you are gone. Add in actual GPS tagged positions too? Go out to the bar, check in and get mugged while looking for a cab. After all, the criminals can now know where you are every time you use a LBSN.

I might sound paranoid, but do you really want everyone else knowing where you are at all the time? Maybe it is just me, but I am uncomfortable with sharing so much to everyone. Leave a comment to let me know how you feel. LBSNs a good thing or a horrible idea that could have even worse consequences?

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