Facebook app could track users at all times

Facebook app

A report has claimed that Facebook has plans to launch a new mobile phone app which will allow your location to be tracked even when the app isn't open. The idea is that friends will be able to tell if you're nearby through Facebook.

However, there are some serious concerns about the privacy of users.


The report

According to a report on Bloomberg, once the location app is activated it will continually track the location of the user. Your friends will therefore be able to search for you in the real world and get in contact.

It's a development of the location services on Facebook already, which uses GPS to pinpoint where you are, so you can 'check in' and tell your Facebook friends where you are. The idea will be that your friends will be able to find you even when you haven't checked in.

Facebook could then make money from the development by targeting you with adverts that are relevant to your location.

It's worth highlighting that this has not been confirmed by Facebook. It comes from a trade report citing two anonymous sources.

So should we be worried?

On the one hand this is far from the only popular app with this sort of functionality. Findmyfriends already lets you add friends to an app and then pinpoint them at any time of the day or night.

There are other apps which let you search for people in the location with similar interests, and some dating apps let you find people in vicinity who are signed up for the same dating service. We seem to be quite comfortable with letting certain people know where we are.

The Transfer Knowledge Network estimates that in the UK location services are worth £6.7 billion, so we are generating a lot of money from being free with this information.


However, this doesn't necessarily mean we ought to be quite so comfortable with sharing information. If this is broadcast to all your friends on Facebook, that's a lot of people. Users have spread the net far and wide: friends can include people you have known for years but also new acquaintances and people you bumped into once at a party. Do you really want those people to know where you are at all times?

Secondly, Facebook is linked to an awful lot of other information. If someone has seen a photo of you in expensive jewellery, or next to a pricey TV, they know where you live and where you are, so they have a perfect opportunity to help themselves to your property whenever they want.

If you want to scare yourself, try visiting weknowyourhouse.com. This uses Twitter to find people. It searches for when people use the word 'home' in tweets, picks up the associated geolocation, and then posts it to the site. It shows you where they live (including Google Street View). It also tells you about the places nearby where they've used FourSquare. The site says it only keeps this information for an hour, but it's alarming how easy this data is to access.

Know your risks

The experts agree that everyone feels differently about privacy - and takes a different approach when it comes to different apps. The issue is whether they know just how much information is being released about themselves and just what risks they are exposing themselves to by accepting location services.

Jonathan Bamford, from the Information Commissioner's Office, has warned that the pace of change in location based services is creating a lack of awareness as to how mobile devices operate, and as a result end users are losing the ability to control the data transmitted.

If you're going to use these services, you need to know what information you are giving away - and who you are giving it to.

If you are worried, all these apps will allow you to turn off location services. The Open University has actually developed a Privacy Shake, which lets you alter your privacy settings just by shaking your phone.

But what do you think? Are you concerned, or are location services a useful tool? Let us know in the comments.

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Facebook app could track users at all times

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the saynoto0870.com.

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