foursquare wants to reassure its users who fear that their homes may be robbed by people who use the mobile app — or Please Rob Me, at which this action is directed — to determine that they are not at home.
The company addressed what it called the “People can use foursquare to rob houses!” theory in a blog post:
We take your privacy very seriously. That’s why every time you check in, we ask you whether you want to share your location with your friends, whether you want to push it to Twitter, whether you want to push it to Facebook.
For those of you who are foursquare users, you already know that only your friends get to learn about your whereabouts. On top of that, foursquare only knows where you are when you decide to tell us (by checking in).
True, a large number of foursquare users send their check-ins to Twitter and/or Facebook and, therefore, make their location available to an audience much larger than just their foursquare friends. (I’m guilty of this, too — I have some 100 foursquare friends in New York, although I routinely send my check-ins to my few thousand Twitter followers). The benefits are obvious (“if more people know where I am, my chances of meeting up with people increase!”), although it is interesting to see people talking about the potential downsides.
The question of “Will foursquare get my house robbed?” is really a bigger question about the pros and cons of location sharing in general. The site that kicked off this whole conversation was using Twitter’s Search API to pull in foursquare check-ins that had been sent to Twitter and was then rewording those tweets to advertise the fact that a user wasn’t at home.
The truth is you could make something like this without using foursquare at all. Just try searching Twitter for the words “headed to” and you’ll start to scratch the surface on all the location data a lot of us push into the Internets, perhaps even without thinking about it.
Anyway, we definitely “get” the larger issue here — location is sensitive data, and people should be careful about with whom and when they share it. And at foursquare, we do everything we can to make sure that our users know with what people and social sites they are sharing their location with.
The blog post also pointed out a hilarious comment left on a Gawker post about foursquare:
This is fucking silly and ridiculous. Please rob meh.
You might as well argue that you should never tell anyone that you have a job, because then people will know you are at work from 9-5 every day, and can use the white pages to find your home and rob you! Or that you should never, ever update your Facebook status to let people know you’re on vacation. Or that you shouldn’t blog that you’re at work, or at a restaurant, or in another city, or anywhere other than home. Or that you should never upload mobile pix to Flickr when you’re out at night. Or for that matter, you should never, ever, ever tell anyone that you’re anyplace on the phone, because you know who may be listening in? Robbers! Fucking robbers who want to steal your precious, precious, precocious twee shit!
OH HOLY FUCK THE WHOLE WORLD WANTS TO STEAL MY TWEE PRECOCIOUS SHIT SO I AM GOING TO STAY AT HOME AND NEVER LEAVE AND I HAVE GUNS MOTHERFUCKERS!
Goddamn. Did somebody’s grandmother make this Website?