Foursquare recently pushed out a press release full of new feature information that may make a few users squirm, especially those who are already wary of the amount of information the check-in social network already shares. There’s an inherent acceptance that some of your information is going to be shared when you join a social network, or at least it should be, but users are increasingly more cautious about the amount and type of information that they provide to cyberspace. Foursquare is revising their privacy information to allow for more information to be passed on to local businesses, with the intent to help them get a better set of data for marketing and service reasons. Foursquare has seen impressive growth in 2012, but will there new changes dissuade more new users from joining the service?
In the release, Foursquare announces that they will soon begin to show users full names on check-ins, and everywhere else in the app. Their reasoning lies in the large number of complaints they were receiving about how difficult it can be to find a friend when their last name is often abbreviated to an initial. This could be especially frustrating if your friend used an avatar or image instead of a profile picture of themselves. Foursquare hopes that making the name arrangement universal throughout the app, it will help users quickly and more easily locate their friends and family to connect. The development team also discusses how these abbreviations made sense early in the Foursquare timeline, but have become a burden in its modern incarnation.
The other noteworthy part of the privacy changes involve ways of making data more available to business owners who utilize Foursquare to promote customer interaction. Right now businesses can only see check-ins from the last three hours, but for business owners who can only check their Foursquare account at the end of the day this doesn’t really work out well. Foursquare will start offering more information and for a longer period of time for those users who have their privacy settings left open. Users who wish to hide more of their information can still make important privacy decisions before using the app, and if they choose no new information will be shared.
Here’s the full text of their “Privacy 101” post:
Hello Foursquare community!
2012 has been a pretty huge year. We’ve released over fifty new features, welcomed nearly 15,000,000 new people to Foursquare, and had our 3,000,000,000th check-in. It’s a bit clichéd to say this, but your support really is what keeps us going day after day.
We know that privacy policies can be dense, so we put together a high-level document that we think of as our “Privacy 101.” It describes, in an easy-to-read way, how we build privacy into our product. While it doesn’t replace the legal need for the complete description of our privacy practices (which you can read here), we hope it helps you better understand how we think about privacy. We’ve also added new explanations of how privacy works throughout the app in our FAQs, including our default privacy settings and how they can be adjusted.
In addition to creating and refining those documents, we want to point out two specific changes to our policy, both of which will go into effect on January 28, 2013.
1. We will now display your full name. Currently, Foursquare sometimes shows your full name and sometimes shows your first name and last initial (“John Smith” vs. “John S.”). For instance, if you search for a friend in Foursquare, we show their full name in the results, but when you click through to their profile page you don’t see their last name. In the original versions of Foursquare, these distinctions made sense. But we get emails every day saying that it’s now confusing. So, with this change, full names are going to be public. As always, you can alter your ‘full name’ on Foursquare at https://foursquare.com/settings.
2. A business on Foursquare will be able to see more of their recent customers. Currently, a business using Foursquare (like your corner coffee shop) can see the customers who have checked in in the last three hours (in addition to the most recent and their most loyal visitors). This is great for helping store owners identify their customers and give them more personal service or offers. But a lot of businesses only have time to log in at the end of the day to look at it. So, with this change, we’re going to be showing them more of those recent check-ins, instead of just three hours worth. As always, if you’d prefer not to permit businesses to see when you check into their locations going forward, you can uncheck the box under ‘Location Information’ at https://foursquare.com/settings/privacy.
Have a lovely holiday, and thanks for being part of the nearly 30,000,000-strong Foursquare community. We have a lot planned for 2013!
– Team Foursquare