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Facebook is watching you

Comparable to Foursquare and Gowalla, Facebook’s latest feature Places let’s you check into a location and alerts you if any of your Facebook friends as well as any other Facebook users have checked into the same place, upping the creep factor and creating the potential for more awkward social situations than ever. Say you check into a bar. No one you know is around, but Places tells you that Melissa, a 32-year-old Art History major who watches “True Blood” and is a fan of Obama and a member of the group “I love chips and salsa” is within a 10-foot radius. Now you have an in. Once you casually stalk her out you can pepper the conversation with your take on last week’s episode or that article you read in Newsweek about Freud, right before you ask her if she feels like splitting some chips and salsa.

Not only that but when you check in somewhere, local businesses can send you coupons and offers. Yeah, being alerted that it’s still happy hour just around the corner might be a good thing in some cases, but in the bigger picture it means that your personal information is being compiled and shared with companies that “can use it down the line.”

On a day-to-day user level, annoyances include but are not limited to the inability to block merchants from including your check-in on their own Facebook pages as well as the inability to block the flood of “Steve is at Barnes & Noble in Union Square with Sally and Jessica,” and “Big Jim is at Crunch Gym on Lafayette” on your wall. Just when you thought you successfully “hid” all your periphery friends, get ready for even more useless information in your social networking experience.