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Even yet more personalization – with geotagging!

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Apparently the personalization discussed below was not nearly comprehensive enough for Mark Zuckerberg and the crew at Facebook.  Taking a cue from Twitter, Facebook has decided to add a Foursquare-like location feature to its popular social media platform.  Now, everyone can know that you are eating lunch at Hot Doug’s, or drinking a vodka flight with your paramour at some hip Russian tea house.

Geotagging, the newest hot thing in social media, has actually been around for several years.  Foursquare, Loopt, MyTown and even Twitter itself have functionality permitting you to automatically inform people of your location — and certain Facebook apps have been able to perform a similar function — letting everyone you know in on the secret of where you happen to be standing at this very moment.

You know, critical stuff like that.

Of course, it is easy to be cynical about geotagging, but it is undeniably entertaining once you get into it.  Foursquare itself is actually a kind of social media reality sport, encouraging “players” to accomplish things within the “game.”

Here at Legally Social, of course, our job is to spoil all of this fun with sneaky and irritating legal concerns.  Or, as my son would say, law stuff.  So what type of law stuff applies to geotagging?  Is this something essentially harmless, or are there more nefarious things going on here.

As usual in the world of social media, the answer is both.  Geotagging can be enormously effective as a data mining tool, allowing marketers to provide more directed and customized service to people who want it.  You get ads that you want, and you waste less time looking for things that you desire.  Sounds great! Of course, in producing all of this data (and make no mistake it is a lotof data) suddenly information about you is sitting in the cloud.  The cloud knows that you like to eat X and  drink Y.  The cloud know that you go to A, B and C stores.  Perhaps this information can be matched up with other information that someone has on you and that cross-referenced data can be used to further pinpoint your behavior and commercial habits.  Does you privacy policy address any of this?  When you sign up for a geotagging function are you reading the fine print, and determining what it really means for you?

Probably not.  But you should be! Companies need to look at their privacy policies far more often than they did in the past, as the pace of change increases and your marketing folks think of more ways to use social media to your advantage.  And consumers should take advantage of these policies to better understand what they’re getting into, as informed customers are more likely to set rational expectations based on what is really happening to them — and are thus less likely to get mad at you.  And in the end, that’s what much of this is about: proactively addressing dissonance before it becomes litigation or regulatory action.