May 5, 2010

This... is Big Brother

So then. How are you finding the internet?

I've been feeling a bit befuddled lately, with the new wave of services that are available - more notably, location services like Gowalla and the big one - Foursquare.
2008 was "the year of Facebook", 2009 saw the "rise of Twitter" and 2010 so far, seems to belong to Foursquare. And i've done pretty well by steering clear, but more on that later.

As you leave a trail of breadcrumbs about where you go, and integrating this information for those that care over at Facebook and OCD's on Twitter, Foursquare is probably the most promising startup on the web next to Google that really seems to have found a way of making profit out of the social revolution, but more importantly - its providing marketers a wealth of data about the habits of these early adopting "superusers" - or trendsetters. The previously un-reachable, un-marketable upper end.

Turning habits into opportunities, by tracking their movements as they leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind, when someone "checks in" on Foursquare or Gowalla (or the others), their habits are graphed and sent to marketers - and the user is rewarded with a discount or some offer, on occasion.

Sounds good? Free stuff just by doing what you usually do. Everyone wins.

There is another group who wins. Future Criminals. We all know that data on the web is for all intensive purposes - permanent, and can serve to backfire on you if you're not careful. So whilst I haven't yet read the headline "House owner burgled after inviting burglars", or "(name) Assasinated with the aid of Foursquare" - the scary-as-fuck possibilities are indisputable.

And what of privacy concerns for the future?

Big Brother watching you was light entertainment (at best) in the past, but if this thing takes off - your privacy could be of real world consideration - and in real danger one day, especially if say, your bank, or maybe the tax dept gets a wiff of odd spending habits and escapades.

I'm staying clear of this one. It helps that I do not own an iPhone or iAnything for that matter, so the temptation to use it is greatly reduced. I also value my privacy. Yes, I am on Facebook and play in Twitter-land - however I am very careful what I share.

I simply do not feel that my whereabouts, or where I go on a regular basis would be of interest to you, nor should it have any affect on you as an able, independent and intelligent human who can think for oneself, let alone sharing this information with complete strangers in a marketing office who would use the information to make a dollar I'll never see.

Yes, there are great things people can share with each other online, but i'm off the grid on this one.

Is sharing your whereabouts for a free coffee worth the security risk?

> Followup: Foursquare 1 year later


Valeri said...

You got it spot on, Future Criminals will love geo-location type of applications like foursquare, in fact they are probably already using it in the USA.

Richard said...

Oh for sure! Thanks for reading Valeri.