Air Force communications officials are warning Facebook users of a new location-based application that may pose a security risk because it publicises users’ locations without their specific consent.
The features called “Places I check in to,” and “People Here Now” were added in August and use IP addresses and smartphone GPS capabilities to locate a user when logging onto Facebook. The app then publishes that information on the user’s profile page, and the information could become public depending on the user’s profile security settings.
The feature is automatically active and must be turned off by the user.
“Facebook users should properly configure this app’s security settings immediately, for both DOD employees and our families, due to the inherent risks and privacy concerns,” according to an e-mail notification from the 86th Communication Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
The e-mail is not forbidding Facebook users from using the locator feature, but is advising that they disable it.
The feature also publishes a map with a virtual push pin showing the users’ exact location, which compromises operational security and removes much of the effort of electronic stalking, according to the e-mail.
The new feature also allows friends to post each other’s location without their consent unless deactivated.
A file containing instructions to deactivate the features is attached to the e-mail. It contains screen shots of how the feature works and step-by-step instructions to deactivate it.