Thoughts about Emotional Data in Wiredset Blog

Foursquare User Numbers Soar

The title of the article Data Driven Experiences: Emotional Data, by Mark Ghuneim is fascinating, however, I’m concerned about address-level sharing of geo-spatial information as part of social networks.

FourSquare is a phone application that has seen soaring popularity since the 2010 SXSW event in Austin,Texas in March. Details of how the application works can be found at the site. I was dismissive initially. It seemed little more than a way of telling others where you are at the moment, maybe make a restaurant recommendation, and earn very cute badges based on level of activity.

Activity is measured by the user’s “check-in” to a location, which is received and time stamped via mobile device by FourSquare and further validated by GIS-type service. Of course there is the element of competition by earning badges and becoming “Mayor” of a location. FourSquare also offers users a less blatant way of informing friends, and possibly everyone else, that you shopped at a great new clothing boutique, or went dancing at an upscale club over the weekend. Better yet, if you made an appearance at not merely one nightclub but three, in a single evening! FourSquare would be very effective for that. Why? Well, the app is new and not yet hacked or gamed by savvy users, it is far more credible than heresay and not subject to human error.

Foursquare activity in TX

Foursquare activity @ SXSW 2010, Austin TX

At first glance, FourSquare and similar didn’t seem terribly compelling. Merely more of the popularity contest and conspicuous consumption effect? Well, I didn’t foresee much potential for widespread appeal for another social networking phenomena, different but novel in its own way: the Facebook game, Farmville… and I was so very wrong.

Foursquare Logo

Businesses will certainly find value from subscriptions to FourSquare user data feeds. Geo-spatial data based social network applications, described by the more general term of LBS, location-based services, are attracting attention in unexpected ways.

For example, FourSquare advocates introduce the alluring idea that it actually enriches the lives of users with a collectively magnified knowledge base of the world to draw on, leading to a higher level of engagement with everything.

However, I believe that most possible benefits are far outweighed by the risks of over sharing. The most obvious negative consequence is increased vulnerability, impacting personal, family and property security. Note that FourSquare does have a posted privacy policy , about which I am not informed enough to comment.

Published in: on 2 April 2010 at 11:21 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I concur – it is amazing: when I suggest to people to go by foot they now want to take their car, when they’re without their mobile phone they kind of feel naked. One should have second thoughts about “sharing” all and sundry – already Twitter data are used by burglars to locate deserted houses, next will be kidnappers using four square and geo-tagging and the like. Big Brother is catching you.

    • Crisismaven, I was checking your site the other day, haven’t seen any updates for over two months. I hope all is well….?

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