So, everyone's excited about the new Facebook Places, right? The Facebook service that lets you check-in, Foursquare style, at whatever hip Sushi bar/bicycle repair shop you happen to be in. Oh, and also other people can check you in, too.

Click to viewFacebook places, which rolls out this evening, allows your friends (and only your friends) to tag you when checking into a place, much as they might tag you in a picture. This is terrible! Of course, you are notified whenever anyone tags you in a check-in, and you can always delete a tag. But, still. You're probably not checking in because either 1) You don't want people to know where you are. Or 2) You spent all your money on Star Wars memorabilia and can't afford a smartphone, so you won't see that someone's tagged you until you get home anyway.

Why to do It
Here are a couple situations off the top of our head where someone else tagging you could bring social doom:

  • You are at the bar when you are supposed to be at your girlfriend's crappy art show. Your chat with your friend Jane, who checks into the bar and tags you: "At this awesome bar, just talked to [Your name here] about his Star Wars memorabilia collection!" Your girlfriend sees this on Jane's wall, walks over to the bar and dumps you on the spot.
  • You are having an affair with your wife's sister. Your wife's sister checks into her home and says "Having awesome sex with [Your name here]". Your wife sees this on her sister's wall and divorces you. (Also, a robber you're friends with steals your Star Wars memorabilia collection because he knows you're out having the affair.)

That second one is not very probable, but you get the point!

At the Facebook places launch event, an engineer equated tagging someone in a check-in with tagging someone in a picture. Not quite the same thing. Someone has to point a thing at you and take your picture. But anyone can go to the bathroom, tag you in a check-in, then a significant other/spouse/boss/stranger sees it and: Boom. Your life is ruined. A picture does not automatically tell someone exactly where you are, with whom, when, and whether you are having an awesome time, despite the fact that you should be at your girlfriend's terrible art opening.

How to do it
Here's how to make sure other people can't tag you on Places. Plus, how to adjust the two other Places privacy settings. First, click on the Account tab at the top right and click Privacy Settings. Select the little blue "customize settings" towards the bottom of the screen that appears.

You'll see a list of privacy options. Under the Things Others Share category, disable "Friends can check me in to Places." Now, only you can broadcast your location.

You can also choose who can see your check-ins. Click the "Places I check in" pulldown under the Things I Share category. The default is "friends only." Selecting "Customize" brings up a pop-up where you can exclude entire networks, individual people, or everyone.

Finally, you may want to disable the "People Here Now" feature. "People Here Now" allows any user checked in at a location to see who else is checked in there—even if they're not friends. Make sure the box is unchecked next to "Include me in 'People Here Now' after I check in."

There. Your Star Wars memorabilia collection is safe and you are ready to sneak around like the sexy Russian spy you may or may not be. Now if only there was a big button that could easily disable the whole damn thing.

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