Monday, August 9, 2010

Foursquare's stalker problem

Posted By on Mon, Aug 9, 2010 at 1:57 PM

I hate foursquare, and I've made that clear in the past. Why people feel the need to broadcast their position on the planet every few minutes, announcing their home is empty, is beyond me. But, in my defense, within the first six months of living in this fine state, a meth addict — who also happened to be my across-the-street neighbor — stole my wallet, broke into my home while I was sleeping and then, while I was away, stole everything he could grab (including the bacon from my freezer). So, maybe I'm a little more paranoid than most.

But still, I'm not the only person who thinks broadcasting your location on multiple online public forums is less than brilliant ... and, for what? Badges? Virtual points? The possibility of maybe getting a discount? Please. Get a grip.

The folks at The Daily Beast ran into a lady who's stalker used foursquare to track her down at a restaurant. Guess what she did? That's right. She stopped using foursquare.

Here's a snip:

In the world of social networking, Carri Bugbee is hardly a novice. The social-media marketing strategist from Portland, Oregon has 7,164 followers on Twitter, 1,197 Facebook friends, and more than 500 connections on LinkedIn. But when she ventured into the world of geotagging—the technology behind many of the social networks that broadcast your location to the Internet—she received an unsettling wake-up call.

One evening last February, she picked up her phone and "checked-in" to a local restaurant on foursquare, the popular location-based social network that lets others know where you are in real-time. Foursquare posted her location to her feed and Bugbee went back to chatting with her friends over the menu. That's when the hostess came over to the table and told her she had a call on the restaurant telephone.

Bugbee didn't recognize the male voice on the other end of the line, and the voice didn't offer to introduce itself. It told her she shouldn't use foursquare because if she did, certain people might find out where she lived. She nervously laughed off the creepy comment, telling the caller it was pretty hard to find her house. That set him off. "You stupid bitch," he said, an opening to a string of insults. She quickly hung up, rattled.

The caller had tracked down Bugbee through PleaseRobMe.com, a website designed to warn people about the risks of geotagging by aggregating and publicizing updates from foursquare. In Bugbee's case, the warning was effective.

"I was totally creeped out," she recalls. "I just didn't ever think it would happen to me." That night she had a friend come home with her while she checked out the place to make sure no one was there. "I slept with all the lights on that night." She also immediately quit foursquare and hired a house sitter. She says she felt that someone "basically stalked me," and she's become, as she put it, a "geotagging curmudgeon."

"I think that a lot of people have drunk the Kool-Aid without actually thinking that hard about" location-based technologies, says Bugbee. "At some point, some tragedy will occur."

PleaseRobMe.com shut down last spring after a string of incidents like Bugbee's suggested it might be a little too helpful to would-be criminals. Nevertheless, its founders said they had accomplished their goal of educating users about the risks of broadcasting their location to the world. And even without PleaseRobMe, it's often easy enough to find someone's location on foursquare itself, especially since many people cross-post their check-ins on Twitter and other websites.

Read the rest of this article, by Lisa Riordan Seville, here.

Beyond all that, why not give your cell phone a rest? I know it's cool and makes lots of pretty colors right there in your hand, but there is definitely something to be said for unplugging for a while ... and on a regular basis. Once you detach your face from your screen of choice, you can rediscover some really wonderful things — like books, hikes and looking people in the eye when you communicate with them.

And, for chrissake, stop telling everyone where you're at. First of all, no one cares. I repeat: No one cares. Second, when you do that you're offering the companies you're visiting free advertising, which cheapens you. Finally, do you really think it's in your best interest to announce your location every time you make a move — thereby announcing where you're not, like at home? Really?

Check out ICanStalkU.com and answer again.

This video does a great job explaining how stupid foursquare is:

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