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Foursquare changes privacy policy, but it shouldn't cause a ruckus

Posted: , by Alan F.

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Foursquare changes privacy policy, but it shouldn't cause a ruckus
Screenshot from Foursquare

Screenshot from Foursquare

Foursquare is changing its privacy policy on January 28th, 2013, according to an email that has been sent out to members. The main change is that members will now see complete first and last names on the profile page and over the whole service. According to Foursquare, this is done because its growth has made the use of both full names and abbreviations confusing to members. The abbreviations might have worked in its earlier days, but now the membership numbers are too large for members to keep track of  who is using full names,and who is using abbreviations. This year, Foursquare has seen its 3 billionth check-in (yes, that is with a "b" folks) and has added 15 million members to total almost 30 million. It also added reviews and local information.

Ok, so far this might not be enough to cause an Instagram-style revolt.  Foursquare is also going to send businesses an expanded list of users that have checked into a store or restaurant. At present,businesses can view the previous three-hours of check-ins at a location. But since many business just look at their Foursquare check-ins at the end of the day, a list containing more than the last 3 hours worth of check-ins will be made available.

To prevent this from blowing up in its face, Foursquare itself is telling members how they can get around the new policy. First of all, full names different from the user's real name can be used, and by going to "Privacy Settings" and then "Location Information," users can opt out of businesses seeing their check-ins.

Foursquare has also provided what they are calling Privacy 101, which is a version of the new policy without the legalese that confuses everyone but the lawyers. You can view the new policy in simple to read language by clicking on the sourcelink.

"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.

As our product evolves, one of the things we do is update our policies to match it. And a big aspect of that is privacy (something we think about a lot). This email lays out a couple changes that we’ll be making to our privacy policy in the coming month, and explains how they affect you and what you can do about it.

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.

The Foursquare of today is so different than the first version that launched in 2009, and we appreciate that you let us continue to evolve and build our vision. This occasionally means altering our privacy policy. When we do, we make it a priority to come up with clear ways to help you understand your privacy choices, and to communicate them clearly. If you have any questions or want more details, head over to our updated privacy policy or support.foursquare.com.

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"-Email to Foursquare members

source: Foursquare via PCMag, TechCrunch

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