I Deleted My FourSquare Account and Why You Should Too

If you know me and my work, you know I'm an advocate for social media and networking. I've long been a champion for sharing and helping others. I can't begin to list all the instances where I've been helped, good fortune has found me, and I've developed deep personal friendships with very smart and engaging people.

For a few years, I resisted joining FourSquare (4sq) because I was spooked by stories of people being stalked, houses being robbed, and oversharing, in general. My understanding at the time, was that all checkins were public checkins. I even referred to the service as "FourScare." But, then I realized I was wrong, and you could configure your settings so that ONLY your friends could see your checkins. So I gave it a try. Since I joined 4sq, I've only friended people I know in person and completely trust. I've enjoyed the perks of checking in at local venues and earning free beverages, appetizers, $5.00 off haircuts, and more.

Today, however, I will be deleting my 4sq account. In early December, FourSquare announced that the 4sq iOS 7.0 update removes private check-ins with all previous private check-ins to remain private. 4sq encourages users to use 4sq to discover new places if they don't want to publicly share check-ins.

...and this is why I deleted my FourSquare account. 

By seeing someone's checkins, you can easily figure out where they spend their time, what time of day they typically frequent certain places, potentially where they work and live. When I lost my one and only mayorship at a local Starbucks to another user, I was curious if I've ever seen this person there, so I did some investigating. Although this user has a cartoon avatar and screen name (let's say his name is "Cheeky"), I discovered this user's real name and FaceBook profile (with actual photo) by clicking on the FaceBook icon under his name. 

...and this is why I deleted my FourSquare account. 

I identified venues he frequents, because he holds the "Mayorship" at these places:

...and this is why I deleted my FourSquare account. 

I can see this user's "friends," and then click through to see their interactions:

So what?

If I choose, I can look for this person next time I'm in my favorite place and strike up a conversation. If I have a personal interest in this person, I can drop a few comments about our common interests, or even "coincidentally" just "happen to" see this person again in a variety of local places. The rest is yours to imagine. 

...and this is why I deleted my FourSquare account. 

This transparency is not just limited to FourSquare. All public posts (on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) are potential stalking avenues. 
Creepy Willy Wonka

Read The Circle by Dave Eggers, if you want to get creeped out even more. 

...and this is why I deleted my FourSquare account. 

Some things you can do (in addition to stopping your use of FourSquare):

If you look at my personal Facebook page, you will see LOTS of public posts. What you WON'T see are my private posts that are intended only for my friends. I try to stay aware of the intended audience for each of my posts. I posted about FaceBook privacy here
Before you comment on, or add yourself, to an update, check the privacy:
Same for Twitter. You can control what people see on Twitter, even if your timeline is set to Public. If you previously allowed location information on Twitter, you can delete all location information now. Whether or not that really removes your data from Twitter's database, I doubt. It's something, at least.
If the information in this post creeps you out, reconsider what information you share publicly. 

Now you know why...

 I deleted my FourSquare account. 

Originally posted in Dec. 2013 here