The new version of the application is gathering support, but much changed in terms of privacy: do we want to be always tracked?
The surprisingly good new Foursqaureper Mashable, for The Verge, instead of the definitive app in its sector. A sector that is no longer that of the check in – that never really touched the interests of the mass public – but that of suggestions on places to see, restaurants where to eat and so on. All very effective and fun, but also to focus attention on another aspect, that of privacy.
In fact, if before Foursquare invited us to communicate our position voluntarily, by checking in and, perhaps, sharing it on the other social networks, now the app has changed perspective and can always know where we are, geolocating us automatically at any time and therefore proposing suggestions based on our interests and habits. Our position is communicated to the company's servers where, based on 6 billion check-ins previously registered (the Wired US estimate), suggestions are identified and proposed. Very comfortable, yes, but, as Ryan Tate pointed out Wired Us, Foursquare, with this change of perspective, turned into a tracking machine that works even when the application is closed, always tracking users' movements.
The idea of the new Foursquare indeed closer to Google Now or to the Nearby Friends of Facebook service: an app with a much broader spectrum than it was previously. The same Dennis Crowley, CEO of the company, presenting the re-launch project of his creature, spoke of a new one produced with gods "superpowers", with the typical language "sublime" and courtesy of the Silicon Valley vulgate, the same that accompanies the myth of cloud computing and Big Data.
Although Crowley has stated that his company does not sell the data he collects "to nobody", it is also legitimate to ask ourselves what Foursquare wants to do with all this information that it is now able to collect and as the CEO himself assumes at Wall Street Journal, very likely that they may be the currency of exchange for a new business model based on personal information of its users in exchange for advertising. Like, for example, for Facebook.
But in addition to the commercial exploitation of the data, it is legitimate to worry about the personal information collected by Foursquare even in relation to other actors, as a result of disconcerting news from the NSA case that came to the surface last year. Although Foursquare has never been explicitly implicated in the case, the risk exists. Wired US questioned Adi Kamdar of the Electronic Frontier Foundation on this point, for which "These positioning data collection systems are for malicious actorslike a honey pot for a bear".
Obviously, the function of the tracking constant deactivated directly by the user, but the feeling that the app – in its new guise – loses much of its meaning, if used in a less invasive way. And that as a result, many users are ready to sacrificing a slice of their digital privacy in favor of new features. But the important thing, as for other services, is the awareness of what you are actually selling in exchange for the service.
While the debate on the defense of privacy is becoming more and more extensive and, perhaps, the awareness of Internet users of the risks involved in the issue is also growing, and it is also legitimate to ask whether Foursquare actually made this move apt. Studies by the Pew Research Centers Internet Project have shown how important slices of smartphone users have off the functions of tracking their gadgets to protect their information: 46% of US teenagers in September 2012 and about a third of the adults interviewed in April of the same year said they did. And all this before the Snowden scandal exploded.
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