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Facebook’s “Foursquare Killer:” Now Mom Will Know Exactly When You’re Getting Wasted

With the recent launch of Twitter’s Geolocation API, every social startup worth its rackspace has been moving in the direction of locational applications. Now, Nicholas Carlson at Silicon Alley Insider seems to have inside confirmation that Facebook is working on adding capabilities for “checking into” to physical locations through its mobile service. Will parents soon know every time a college freshman hits up a frat party? Will your boss question your frequent trips to the free clinic? Will your significant other notice your repeated, um, “visits” to their best friend’s apartment?

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Carlson seems to think that Facebook’s move is a serious threat to Foursquare, the fledgling startup based in New York’s East Village which has been leading the space since its launch at SXSW 2009. In his words: “Like with Foursquare, Facebook friends are your real friends — the kind of people you want to join you when you go out.”

Wait a minute — has Carlson been paying attention to how people actually curate their friend lists on Facebook?

The problem (as amply illustrated by the likes of Lamebook and a raft of Huffington Postings) is that ordinary users are already using their presences on various social networks to create irregular network topologies. That’s Web 2.0-speak for the fact that, while people will friend pretty much anyone back on Facebook, many people tend to use Twitter for news, Foursquare for people they don’t regard as serious stalking risks, and so on.

How could Facebook get around this? It might be possible for their engineers to introduce “Friend Groupings,” so that people could slot all of their “real friends” into a group, then give only that group permission to see checkins.Considering the fact that only 25% of users have ever even touched their privacy settings, though, it seems unlikely that many people would use a feature several times more complicated.

It’s true that Facebook could add passive checkins as a feature, but the company’s Beacon privacy disaster (plus the stagnation of Loopt, once the herald of “always on” locational networking), makes that a losing proposition.

Still — there are tens of millions of users and hundreds of millions in ad revenues at stake. Look for Facebook to start inserting itself into your social life as soon as it finishes, you know, rewriting the Internet.

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