A lot of you are asking for our thoughts in light of the “People can use foursquare to rob houses!” thesis making the rounds so we figured we’d weigh in with our perspective. Two things:
#1. We take your privacy very seriously. That’s why every time you checkin we ask you whether you want to share your location with your friends, whether you want to push it to Twitter, whether you want to push it to Facebook.
For those of you who are foursquare users, you already know that only your friends get to learn about your whereabouts. On top of that, foursquare only knows where you are when you decide to tell us (by checking-in)
True, a large number of foursquare users send their checkins to Twitter and/or Facebook, and therefore make their location available to an audience much larger than just their foursquare friends. (I’m guilty of this too - I have some 100 foursquare friends in NY, though routinely send my checkins to my few thousand Twitter followers). The benefits are obvious (“if more people know where I am, my chances of meeting up with people increase!”) though it is interesting to see people talking about the potential downsides.
#2. The question of “Will foursquare get my house robbed?” is really a bigger question about the pros and cons of location sharing in general. The site that kicked off this whole conversation was using Twitter’s Search API to pull in foursquare checkins that had been sent to Twitter and was then re-wording those tweets to advertise the fact that a user wasn’t at home.
The truth is you could make something like this without using foursquare at all. Just try searching Twitter for the words “headed to”…
… and you’ll start to scratch the surface on all the location data a lot of us push into the internets, perhaps even without thinking about it.
Anyway, we definitely “get” the larger issue here - location is sensitive data and people should be careful about with whom and when they share it. And at foursquare, we do everything we can to make sure that our users know with what people and social sites they are sharing their location with.
We’re also happy to answer any questions on this so ping us if there’s anything you’re confused about.
On another sidenote, to all the users who really understand foursquare, thanks so much for having our back on this. We saw a lot of support on the blogs and on Twitter and we appreciate you taking the time to explain to folks the ins-and-outs of what we’re doing.
That being said, figured I’d share one of my favorite comments from this Gawker post poking fun at the whole “foursquare as robbery accomplice” angle:
You might as well argue that you should never tell anyone that you have a job, because then people will know you are at work from 9-5 every day, and can use the white pages to find your home and rob you! Or that you should never, ever update your Facebook status to let people know you’re on vacation. Or that you shouldn’t blog that you’re at work, or at a restaurant, or in another city, or anywhere other than home. Or that you should never upload mobile pix to Flickr when you’re out at night. Or for that matter, you should never, ever, ever tell anyone that you’re anyplace on the phone, because you know who may be listening in? Robbers! Robbers who want to steal your precious, precious, precious shit! (by mat-honan)
That’s it from us for tonight. Thanks again for all your support,
- team foursquare (… who just so happen to all still be at work if you feel like breaking into our apartments :)