Foursquare, the frontrunner in location apps, announced changes to its privacy policies in the new year. These new updates will result in user’s full names being displayed across the service instead of the previous ‘name+initial of surname’. In addition to this, the company is also planning to share more of its user data with businesses that users frequent.
The company announced this in an email to its users. Foursquare has changed quite a bit before it was demoed at SXSW in 2009. Recently, the service saw a complete refresh in design and usability. The company is now clearly looking at monetizing the service by giving more user data to 3rd party businesses like restaurants and venues.
Full names of users will now be public according to these updates. This is being to done to bring consistency across the platform. When you searched Foursquare earlier you could get first names and an initial of their surname. Only if you were friends with someone on Foursquare, you would get to see full names. This was confusing to most users and after going through the feedback, the company decided to unify the naming approach. The full names will be applied by default on January 28th, 2013 but users can still opt out of this and change their username in the settings to how it previously was.
When it comes to sharing more user data to venue owners, it is still not clear as to what kind of data and how much of it Foursquare intends to share. Currently, businesses can see user check-ins during the previous 3 hours. Most possibly, the new changes will mean that businesses will get some sort of real-time data about check-ins. Users who are not happy with this still have the choice to opt-out.
Along with these changes the service has also published a Privacy 101 document which will help those of us who can’t decipher the dense legalese to get a decent understanding of the new privacy policies. After the outrage generated by Instagram 2 weeks back, this was necessary.
Personally, I think Foursquare is bad news as I am not thrilled with sharing my location with anyone, public or private. Changes in policies can mean more complexity in the service’s workings. I have not used Foursquare only because of the privacy concerns that crop up with sharing your location and it doesn’t really add much value to anything I do. But those of you who use it extensively should make a note of these changes and go through the Privacy 101 document before January 28th.
Link | Foursquare’s Privacy 101