International Users Accessing Facebook Places Through US VPN Accounts

By using a virtual private network (VPN) hosted in the United States, Facebook users from around the world are accessing Facebook Places. The VPN allows foreign users to download the US version of the Facebook for iPhone app or access the US version of touch.facebook.com, both of which include Places.

Reports from Twitter show some people from Germany, Australia, Scotland and Belgium using Places as early as August 24th, and the Places interfaces for iPhone and touch.facebook.com have both been translated into German.

Access to Places is restricted to US IP addresses, which can be faked by connecting to a US-hosted VPN account. Despite relying on GPS to determine what Places you are nearby, GPS is not part of the Places authentication process which disqualifies foreign users. Facebook may be able to prevent future international use of Places by updating touch.facebook.com and the iPhone app to disallow anyone whose coordinates are outside the United States from using Places.

Until then, to use Places from abroad:

  1. Use a phone which can add a VPN configuration such as an iPhone. iPhone users can change VPN settings by going to Settings -> General -> Network -> VPN.
  2. Connect to a US VPN account through a site like Hotspot Shield, or follow the instructions on this MacTalk Australia forum.
  3. Download the US version of Facebook for iPhone or visit touch.facebook.com.
  4. Click the Places icon or Places tab.

Facebook has wanted to control the rollout of Places because its utility across regions depends on a high quality seed database as well as a high density of users. Assembling a good seed data set for users around the world could simply take some time. However, this leak may give international early adopters a bad impression of Places, since if none of your friends have access to the Nearby Friends list in which they can see your check-ins, the feature is much less valuable.

By making a highly publicized release of a product which only US users could access, Facebook should have expected some international jealousy and created a more secure authentication process. Nevertheless, it’s a good sign for the company that users around the world are wanting to find ways to get around these roadblocks in order to be able to share their location data with their Facebook friends.

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