Here’s another article that makes me hesitant to jump on the Foursquare bandwagon. While I do have an account and the app’s lived on my iPhone for the better part of a month, I have yet to check in anywhere. I’m also hesitant to jump on the OMG, all these social media tools are going to get people killed bandwagon, too. I think there’s a gray area that lives somewhere, but the technology is so new, it’s hard to spot.
If you don’t know, Foursquare is an geolocation application that allows a user to check in at a specific location. Using that information, your friends or followers might be encouraged to come hang out with you at that second or check the spot out later. Users earn badges based on how many places they visit and other challenges, and become the “mayor” of a location by visiting that same place—a lot. Businesses also use the application as a promotional tool, offering discounts and deals to users who check in from their store or restaurant frequently as well as a tracking tool to keep up with unique and repeat visitors, the business’ word of mouth rep, and gauge the success of events or sales.
Please Rob Me, a site featured on ReadWriteWeb a while ago, already left me feeling gnarly and was the first to start confirming my suspicions about location-based applications. The article and the site didn’t make me worry about someone coming to my home to pilfer my MacBook. I’ve got insurance, and I’m dying to get a unibody MacBook Pro anyway . In other words, it’s just stuff. Thanks for the favor*. As far as I know, Foursquare doesn’t publish home addresses and if you’ve got a decent user name, finding someone’s house can be difficult. However, my concern was and is about users sharing their current location and someone using that information to rob, harass or assault them.
And let’s be real, over-sharing is one of the main reasons why I never tried Loopt. Everybody, and I mean everybody could see your location there. Foursquare is at least a little more secure in that only your followers know your whereabouts. But if you’re a social media maven and you’ve got followers coming out the yang, how well do you know them or their intentions?
I’m not trying to freak anyone out nor am I trying to get on this self-important soapbox. It’s not like you’ll automatically have a bevy of psychotic stalkers if you use Foursquare or a similar application. As I said, I haven’t even used the application to check in anywhere, but I did have a psychotic stalker in college and all he had to do to find me was walk around campus asking people if they knew me and what my phone number was. No technology involved. However, use of Foursquare as a stalking device has become so common that there’s a name for it: FourStalking.
That said, I know we live in a world where we share just about anything and everything online, and the Web connects us to the world in wonderful ways that never existed before. But just like you’re aware of your surroundings and what you share in real life (how many of you shred junk mail for security purposes like I do?), you should also apply common sense and be aware of what you share in your digital life and whom you share it with. All it takes is a few jerks to turn a well-meaning tool into the means for a bad end.
*I’m being facetious. Please DON’T rob my house, folks.