Foursquare Privacy: Being Careful with Sharing Location

Are You Sharing Too Much?

We live in an extremely open world these days. Social networking has taken that to a whole new level and it’s almost become second nature to share everything from photos of important events to where restaurant you're having dinner at.

Foursquare is one of the web’s leading location-based social network, but are you using it too casually? Here are just a few things you should do to take care of yourself when using Foursquare.

The Very First Thing You Need to Do

Before you even begin to do anything on Foursquare, you should have configured your privacy settings so that you know exactly who you’re sharing your information with. To do that, simply navigate to your thumbnail picture and name in the top right corner of the Foursquare website, and click “Settings.” From there, click “Privacy Settings.”

There are two sections for privacy settings on Foursquare: your contact information and your location information. By default, nearly everything is checked and therefore shared, so you should uncheck anything you don’t want to be revealed to your network.

Keep in mind that if you would like to compete for Foursquare mayorships at any venue, other Foursquare users will be able to see who is the mayor and will be able to see your public profile. Only Foursquare friends can see your location check-ins, but you should consider signing out of your account and looking at how your profile is displayed to people, not in your network.

To do this, sign out and go to Foursquare.com/username, where “username” is your specific login name.

Pay Attention to Who You Network With

Just like other social networks, you can make friend requests with other users on Foursquare. Friends will be able to interact with you, view your progress and even be notified of venues where you check in.

Don’t approve friend requests from people you don’t know. It’s not uncommon to get networking requests from total strangers these days. You don’t know these people, so shouldn’t give them access to your exact location when you use Foursquare.

Avoid approving friend requests from people you don’t trust. Again, even if you’re acquainted with a particular person, it may not always be a great idea to tell them you’re out of town for the weekend or not home. The word can get out, and who knows what sort of creepy stuff can result from it.

Avoid following too much a pattern with your check-ins. This may sound crazy, but if strangers or people you’re less acquainted with know that you go to the gym every weekday at 5pm because of your Foursquare check-ins, you’re making it too easy for them to expect exactly where you’re going to be. Mix it up a little so people can’t anticipate your location.

Be Mindful of Sharing on Other Social Networks

Foursquare allows you to share your location on other social networks automatically, such as Facebook and Twitter. If you’ve got 500 Facebook friends and 2,500 Twitter followers, you may be pushing out your exact location to hundreds or thousands of strangers.

Who knows what they might do with that information.

The solution? Just don’t do it. Unless your Facebook and Twitter profiles are made private and your network includes nothing but very close friends or family, the best thing to do is just avoid configuring your Twitter or Facebook accounts to Twitter and leave it at that.

Of course, not everybody sees this as an option and would still like to share their Foursquare check-ins. If you do decide to share your location data on Twitter or Facebook, just pay attention to who you’re networking with there as well.

The Realities of Cyberstalking

Nobody thinks that it could ever happen to them, but literally anyone could become the victim of cyberstalking.

I recommend reading the following short article that The Guardian published a couple years ago: The night I was cyberstalked on Foursquare.

I hope that a true story like this one will encourage you to be mindful of what you share online, including your location data. Not everything on the web is all fun and games. Be careful and stay safe.