Foursquare is home to the world’s most complete picture of where people are at any moment in time. That data could power all kinds of fascinating research for both commercial and academic purposes, but up to now, Foursquare hasn’t had a good way to get that data into the hands of researchers.
Today they’ve announced a partnership with Gnip that will open the full firehose of check-in data — anonymized, of course — for research purposes. Retailers will be able to study the success of advertising campaigns; city planners will be better able to study the dynamics of their cities; and academics will be able to compare the location patterns of people all around the world.
For each check-in, Foursquare is making just the basic location information, time and date and gender of the user available through Gnip. This keeps the data anonymous and ensure no one will have access to a particular user’s location or be able to track them across multiple check-ins. That data is, of course, essential to Foursquare’s Explore algorithms, so they’re hanging on to it for their own purposes.
Gnip powers similar firehose data products for Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress and Disqus, so researchers are familiar with their offerings. The data will be available in two packages: the full firehose and a filtered version via Gnip’s PowerTrack service.
What kinds of research would you like to see derived from Foursquare’s data?