Do You Use Foursquare?

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Allan Pratt, MBA

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In Internet circles, privacy is sometimes considered a bad word: bad in the sense that it sometimes means, “Oh no, don’t complain.”

But the truth is, if we in the tech arena don’t continue to raise issues about online privacy and security, websites and their companies’ leadership teams will continue to request and demand access to our confidential information under the pretense of doing business, or in scarier terms, doing business as usual.

One website that causes concern is Foursquare, a location-based social networking site designed for smartphones and mobile devices.

While the site looks friendly and harmless, its explanation reads as follows: “Foursquare is a fun, free app for your phone that makes the world easier to use. Keep up with friends, discover what’s nearby, save money, and unlock rewards.”

Businesses set up pages on Foursquare to offer discounts, points, or specials. Users can check-in while physically at a business location, use the promoted discounts, and simultaneously share updates on Facebook and Twitter. Users can also alert their friends as to their location, so they can all meet at a coffee shop, movie theater, etc.

According to Foursquare’s Privacy Policy (remember, you should always read these), there is something called “Private Check-Ins.” The site explains: “Sometimes you’ll want to check-in without sharing your specific whereabouts with friends. This is why we created “Private check-ins” – a way of adding places to your check-in history, earning points, and adding to your mayor and badge counts, while maintaining completely privacy (even from friends).

We find this comes in handy on dates, dinners with parents, or at a coffee shop when you’re just trying to get some work done – really anywhere where you don’t want friends to drop in. To check-in “privately”, simply select “No” on the “Share this check-in with friends” option seen on every “check-in” screen across our mobile apps.”

But here’s a question worth considering: if you choose “Private Check-In,” why go through the process of checking in at all?

Do we really want other people to know where we are at any given moment in a day? Do we want our movements chronicled in social media?

When will we tire of updating our social media profiles about every event in our lives?

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Kathleen Jungck Kudos. Too many people have begun to assume they have the right to invade another's privacy at whim 24x7x365, with the cell phone used as a leash rather than a useful communications device and tool.
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