An interesting story from Scotland started making the rounds in social media circles yesterday. It claims that a graphic designer from Edinburgh is a victim of the “first foursquare stalking case.” The reporting shows an obvious lack of knowledge about foursquare and their privacy policies on the part of the police and journalists. According to the story:
She had been able to track the designer through foursquare, a site which allows users to â€˜check inâ€™ to venues where you live and find other friends.
â€˜It has become quite scary,â€™ he said of the woman, who sent him dozens of emails, calls and texts every day and showed up at places where he had met with friends – despite the fact she’d only encountered him for a few minutes.
There are only two ways that anyone would be able to track you through foursquare:
- By adding them as a friend. Only people you’ve explicitly added as friends can see your location through foursquare. If you no longer want one of them to be able to see your whereabouts, it’s easy enough to fix â€” simply remove them as a friend (click the “X” next to their name on your friends page).
- By tweeting your location. Unless you have a protected Twitter account, your tweets are out there for anyone to see. The same obviously applies to any foursquare checkins you choose to share to Twitter. If you find you have a “scary” stalker, the fix again is simple â€” stop tweeting your checkins! This isn’t a foursquare problem, per se, but a Twitter problem. The same issue could easily arise if you tweeted “I’m at JD Wetherspoons drinking a beer.”
Foursquare puts a heavy emphasis on user privacy and has worked hard to make sure this sort of thing simply isn’t possible. Misinformed police and journalists simply want to jump on the latest trend as being evil, even though the evidence doesn’t warrant it.
UPDATE: As Karl points out in the comments, there is a third way you can be found: the “who’s here” section of the foursquare app. If a stalker knew your general whereabouts, they could theoretically go there and open every nearby venue until they found you in the list of people currently checked in (or â€” if they were really desperate â€” build a script that checks the API for them). Again, you can hide yourself from appearing in that list from your foursquare settings page.