Is Foursquare Enabling Stalkers?

Do you know any Foursquare addicts? They check in all day…. every day…. every stop that they make? I often see these check-ins and think about how easy it would be for me to stalk them. LOL! I understand that some do it to get perks at businesses and such. But when is it going too far? We probably all took some sort of safety class in school. One of the things that they tell women is to vary your route. Do not walk the same exact way each and every day if you think there is a chance that someone could be watching you. And this was when there were no fancy smartphones with GPS to worry about.

But now? A crafty would be stalker does not even have to physically watch you. He can sit back and watch Facebook, Foursquare or other location based check-in apps and figure out your pattern. He could watch your every move as long as you keep checking in. He would know where to wait. It is a scary thought isn’t it?

I abide by a few rules when using Foursquare. Here are things that I never do:

1. I have NEVER checked in at home: Even though you can disable the address setting, just do not do it. Someone who is skilled enough can figure out your address anyway based on your previous movements (where they could follow you from), or by checking the phone book! I guess we do not say phone book anymore do we? But you know what i mean.

2. I never check in from my kids school: This could be just asking for trouble. Not only do the potential “shady characters” now know what school your kids go to, they now know approximately what time you drop them off, and when you pick them up. This info could be used to plan the unspeakable.

3. I do not check-in during my day to day errands: I personally do not need nor want anyone in close proximity to me to know where I am from day to day. This goes double for strangers!

Here are things that I do:

1. I only use Foursquare in and around my own town when I am at a social media event: These events are usually created to bring buzz to the location and brand. So a check-in will help with that. And usually… I am not going back there anytime soon after the event is over, so it does not create a pattern of any type. Event organizers will sometimes even hold contests so that those of us that check-in and tag the business win a prize. But for personal errands, dates, and family outings I do not check in.

2. I do check-in if I am on a press trip or conference: This is fun to do during conferences because we are all looking for “my favorite blogger or Twitter friend” because we want to meet them. Browsing check-ins during these events allows you to see who is around you. And in this case it should be people that you semi-know and trust. They are all wacky bloggers like you. :)

3. I do check-in at airports: Sometimes #2 above applies here. There have been a couple of times that Foursquare has shown me that a friend was also in the same airport. And I like to keep track of all the different airports that I have visited. I have a jetsetter badge or two, and even a “Baggage Handler” badge from when I checked in and commented that I had a regular scan, full body scan, and a pat down! (No, I am not a terrorist).

What some may not realize that Foursquare includes the ability for a user to be alerted whenever a “friend” checks in somewhere. This makes is too easy. Now it is totally not necessary for me to do these 3 things above either. But I do it so few and far between, and one check-ins might be several states from the last that if I did have a stalker watching my Foursquare activity he would quickly lose interest. LOL!

Seriously though, safety first. No one on social media needs to know our every move at all times. Better safe than sorry. And if you are one that prefers to be sure that you are not accidentally revealing your location when innocently posting on Facebook or Twitter, check the following on your smartphone:

Android (exact path may depend on your phone): Click on Settings–>Location Services. Here you can toggle the relevant options off and on. Now keep in mind that this will directly affect your ability to use something like Google maps. A better option may be to selectively turn the option off in specific apps. In Facebook you can click on Menu–>Settings–>Messenger Location Services and uncheck the “Location is on” box.

iOS: Click on Settings–>Privacy–>Location Services. This one screen this setup nicely and allows you to toggle the option off and on for specific apps.

 

Do you check in? Or are you the paranoid type when it comes to sharing your location?

 

UPDATE: Two readers reminded me of a couple of excellent points that I missed putting in the post. One being that if you plan to use Foursquare on a daily basis do not accept friend requests from those that you do not know. The second one is to NOT share your Foursquare postings on Twitter. If your Twitter profile is not private everyone can see them. Twitter is the main means of sharing that I was thinking about when I wrote this. Going to a Twitter profile of someone that has checked into Foursquare multiple times is like a log of their daily motion.

 

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6 Responses to Is Foursquare Enabling Stalkers?

  1. While I agree with you on rules #1 and #2, I think it's important to note that at no time does Foursquare share your location with anyone you haven't explicitly added as a friend (unless you share your check-in to Twitter — you're on your own there). Foursquare is clearly location-based, so you should only be adding trusted friends in the first place, not potential stalkers.

  2. I tend to be pretty liberal with my check-ins though lately I only check in at places like restaurants or attractions but not day to day stuff. The novelty of Foursquare isn’t what it used to be for me so many times I forget…

    • I forget a lot too. Since it is not an every day thing to me even when I am somewhere where I DO want to check-in I sometimes I forget until I see someone next to me doing it.

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