Why Foursquare is Dangerous December 29, 2010Posted by Peter Varhol in Uncategorized.
I’m not typically an early adopter of technology, but I do get there sooner or later. I don’t think I’m a particularly social person, but I even do my share of social media.
I travel perhaps ten or twelve times a year, usually on business. Occasionally I have the opportunity to meet one or more friends in another city, and that is a particular enjoyment, because we usually manage to have dinner or engage in some other activity. It’s a pleasant surprise to meet up with friends in places where you might not know anyone else, and I try to take advantage of these times.
I’m an obvious candidate for Foursquare, the new Internet darling that lets you tell the world where you are and what you are doing at any particular time, often through your smartphone. (There are other vendors that provide similar services, but I believe Foursquare is the current leader in this market. In fact, Twitter keeps encouraging me to tweet my location.)
I find it a bit creepy to let my audience know exactly when I’m going to be away and out of the house. Even with my alarm system (burglars, take note), I am concerned about leaving the house empty (well, the cats are always around). I don’t leave out-of-office voicemails on my answering machines (I work at home), and I always have someone pick up mail and put out the garbage.
Now, you might argue that Foursquare also enables you to hook up with friends after work, or during a night on the town locally. This doesn’t entail travel, so your house or apartment may not be empty for days at a time. But it doesn’t take long to break in and clean out a residence.
You might also argue that I have a measure of control over who has access to my locations, and can keep the Bad Guys away in that manner. Well, maybe, but there are some tradeoffs there, even assuming that the security on location applications is bulletproof (a bad assumption). The goal of most social network participants is to garner as many friends/followers as possible. Once you accept anyone, you lose control of who obtains your information. If you guard your friends/followers lists carefully, they won’t grow very large.
Of course, it’s also possible for your friends to intentionally or unintentionally let your location become known to a wider audience. They might tweet or otherwise post a comment on their own accounts that they will be meeting you across the country on a given day.
It’s only a matter of time before professional thieves catch on to this newest form of finding traveling or otherwise not-at-home Foursquare users. I can understand a certain affinity toward such a service, but the dangers far outweigh the advantages.