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Is Foursquare Safe?

September 30, 2010 by Ryan Ray 

We’re at a strange crossroads in our always on social lives here. Smart phones are making our lives ever so much better, but could they also cause harm to our personal lives with how much we share? I used Foursquare as the poster child for this post but I’ll be naming more than just Foursquare as culprits.

Imagine you are an app developer that has an awesome idea, like location based social network. As more and more smart phones are made with GPS chips inside of them the more people will start doing this kind of thing. Who doesn’t want to know if any of your friends are at a certain place while you are there at the same time? So you have this app, you can check in at locations, see who else is there, share it on Twitter or Facebook, read reviews, get tips, find deals, etc… This all sound SO great, and honestly it is. That is until you have people that use it against other people. These are the kind of people that take the fun out of nice things.

If you are a little out of the loop, the next big crazy trend in iPhone or any smartphone apps are location based apps. There are a few that I know of that deal with it strictly on a social aspect. Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook now does. Many other apps have location built into it but it’s not quite the main feature. Many food apps do, apps like Yelp, UrbanSpoon, etc… Many Twitter apps have location services so you can tag tweets at locations. What I’m talking about today though are the apps that share your location in real time.

Here is what Foursquare looks like. Clean and simple, but notice that the house I currently live in (The Bros) address is shown for all to see. It doesn’t take much brain power for a criminal to figure out that this is my house and when I check in other places besides The Bros that that means I’m not home. Thus giving them the perfect opportunity to come and break into my house. You do have some options below where you can hid it from your foursquare friends and not share it on any social networks. I prefer not to do that. The only downfall is that anyone else with foursquare can create a place at your house to check in at. You don’t have any control of who shares your address with the world.

Like I said, I picked on Foursquare because I think they are the leader in location apps. Almost every app out there has this feature though, it’s ultimately up to us as smart human beings to use these apps safely. It’s up to you on how much information you want to disclose or if you even want to participate in these kinds of apps. In my future home I probably won’t create a place to check in at it, I’ll try to avoid any friends doing so as well. The app is super fun to use though with local businesses, venues, etc… So don’t think none of these apps aren’t safe at all. Just use common sense!

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