Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Foursquare Privacy 101

We like to think the mobile/social products we’re building here at foursquare are pretty powerful and we’re thrilled to have so many passionate users who find significant value in sharing their location with others. However, we know an important concern for most anyone using location-based services is privacy. Where you are and the places you go can often be sensitive and we want our users to be comfortable with how this information is shared via foursquare.
The bottom line is that we understand how important privacy is to you. From the beginning we’ve been working hard to build a robust range of privacy controls into the foursquare experience to give users control over the amount of information they share about their location. We’ve been a leader in the location-based services space - popularizing the concept of voluntarily “checking in” to places - and we aspire to be leaders in the way we educate our users on privacy issues related to location awareness.
To explain what type of information is shared on foursquare, we’ve broken out some highlights below:
Sharing Location
Your location data is ONLY shared with others when you proactively decide to “check in” to tell foursquare you’re at a particular place. Each of your foursquare check-ins is saved to your "Check-in History" which allows you to look back at all the places you have checked in since you created your foursquare account. You can delete any or all of your check-ins from the History page on the foursquare website. If for some reason you ever decide to delete your foursquare account, your entire check-in history will be removed from our database.
Foursquare Friends
To view another user’s check-in information, you need to add them as a friend (and they need to accept your invitation), or you need to accept a friend invitation from them. (Our friending model is similar to Facebook’s “friends” rather than Twitter’s “followers”). Only your foursquare friends can see your feed of individual check-ins.
User Settings
We provide a wide range of privacy controls to all users on the User Settings page. These settings control things such as whether your foursquare friends are allowed to see your email and phone number, whether you want to participate in public Mayorships, whether local merchants can see when you’ve checked into their businesses, and options for sharing your foursquare actions with Twitter and/or Facebook.
Determining Location
Whenever you open the foursquare app on your mobile phone, we use the location information from your phone to tailor the foursquare experience to your current location (i.e. we’ll show you a list of nearby venues, friends and tips). This information is NOT published to your profile or shared with others. We save this information until the next time you launch the foursquare app, at which time we delete your old location information and replace it with your most recent location information.
Who’s Here
One of the benefits of foursquare is that it allows you to connect with other users in your neighborhood. We’ve specifically designed features that can give you a glimpse into which other foursquare users (both friends and non-friends) are currently checked in at nearby venues. In our mobile apps, you’ll find this information listed under the heading “Who’s Here” when you click on a venue. Since we realize some folks may not want to appear on this “Who’s Here” list, you can opt out of this feature on your User Settings page.
"Off the Grid"
Sometimes you’ll want to check in without sharing your specific whereabouts with friends. This is why we created “off the grid” check-ins -- a way of adding places to your check-in history, earning points and badges while letting your friends know you’re out, all without disclosing your specific location to them. We find this comes in handy on dates, dinners with parents, or at a coffee shop when you’re just trying to get some work done - really anywhere where you don’t want to friends to drop in. To check-in “off the grid”, simply select “No” on the “Share this check-in with friends” option seen on every “check-in” screen across our mobile apps. 

Twitter and Facebook
Foursquare gives you the option of sharing some of your activity to your Twitter and/or Facebook accounts. Of course, when you publish foursquare check-ins, Mayorships, or badge unlocks to Twitter or Facebook, this information will be viewable by the communities on those services (and in the case of Twitter, may be discoverable by search engines). Please see our FAQs for more information on what happens when you choose to connect your foursquare account to your Twitter or Facebook accounts, and how you can adjust which information you share across these services.
Sharing Matrix
Foursquare was designed to make it easier to share your favorite places and experiences with friends. We do this in several ways, including check-ins, Mayorships and badge unlocks. For an outline of what information is shared only with foursquare friends vs. the wider foursquare community (and what controls you have over what is shared) please review the table here.
Privacy Policy
For further detail on foursquare’s approach to these issues, please see our privacy policy.

Last Updated August 17, 2010


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