A few weeks ago, at a friends house, I was involved in a rather interesting conversation regarding Social Media and Location-based services. A lot of the discussion revolved around privacy which always has been and always will be an interesting and much debated topic. Some of us involved in the discussion were military brats and thus naturally inclined to be a little more cautious. To loosely quote one participant, “Checking the backseat of my car for wackjobs is a natural inclination.” But not everyone grew up with the same sense of caution that was ingrained with us. (Granted, not everyone live in danger of a suitcase on the sidewalk blowing up on them either). Location based services made it easy to “check-in” to locations and broadcast through your social networks where you are. And where you are not. The conversation was sparked by the recent creation of a site called Pleaserobme.com.
In a world where thieves are prolific coupled with a natural inclination of the younger generation to trust easily, privacy is a very big thing (When hasn’t it been?). Pleaserobme.com aggregates data pushed from Foursquare (based on the preferences that YOU as a user set) to Twitter and creates a list of people who “aren’t home right now”. While I rolled my eyes at the articles written about the site, don’t get me wrong. PLEASEROBME.COM IS A GREAT SITE. It’s an eye-opener for the seemingly unaware. It’s like those reminders you hear during the fall holidays on the news. “Research those companies you donate to.” or “Don’t leave your packages in the back seat of your car in plain sight.” They’re things we all know inherently, but our sense of trust makes us forget to navigate life erring on the side of caution.
Foursquare, by default, assumes a lot of choices for you. One of the assumptions it makes is that everyone you add to your friends list are people you WANT there. (You do, don’t you?) However, there are a number of other options it doesn’t assume. Like how you want to share your data and exactly how much of it you want to share. The auto-follow policy is a much debated topic in Social Media circles and Foursquare is not an exception. It allows you to pull your follow list from Twitter and follow all of those people here too. At first, I allowed everyone who requested the ability to follow my foursquare check-ins. Even cautious as I was in life, I didn’t see the harm in doing so. It’s just Internet life right? Internet stalkers won’t happen to me? Boy was I wrong I discovered one evening when out with a friend. I had checked into a local movie theater to watch the latest Twilight release. Imagine my surprise when I get a text message asking me which team I’m on? Jacob or Edward? (Yes, I’m #teamJacob) I had no idea who the number was from. #freaky! I responded but also asked who the person texting was. I knew that with the recent changes in phones, I had lost some phone numbers and others just weren’t connecting to the right names yet.
I was lucky. The guy who texted was and is an absolute gentleman. We’ve talked on multiple occasions on a variety of subjects. But not everyone is that lucky. As nice as this guy was, I changed my default options shortly afterwards. I may KNOW most of the people following me there, but I was not comfortable with their ability to have my cell phone number without actually asking me. Even if I didadd that information myself. I assume that for this EXACT reason, Craigslist now requires phone confirmation when you create a new account. After all, finding out that a rape or crime ring is succeeding because of your business model isn’t exactly the most flattering thing. It’s interesting how often that conversation comes up often though. Just today @jodijodijodi commented on @shih_wei’s new fan. It was funny to see and sparked a whole new thread of comments concerning Mayorships, Shopping and the fun we have “playing” Foursquare. Because, after all, that’s what it’s supposed to be. A game you play with your friends complete with points. The nice advantages, though, include knowing where your friends are should you feel inclined to join them and the fact that some locations likePCC @Hotel_max and many others are now offering specials to their mayors or visitors.
@Shih_Wei’s reaction to @jodijodijodi’s post was typical. Like me, she laughed it off and went on with life. But should we interject some caution into our lives? As I said earlier, I’ve tended to blow naysayers off on the subject. We all approach it with different views because we’ve all been raised to view life differently. I’ve always felt that as long as you proceed with caution in your on AND offline lives that you should be relatively fine. Until today. It was weird. After making an off-hand comment about spending the evening “stealing” mayorships, I checked into two of my evening locations. I needed some things at the MAC store (as in computers, not makeup…) and stole a mayorship. I chuckled, checked the twitter account of the guy I stole it from and moved on. Later as Iwalked into Footzone Redmond for my weekly run I checked in again and stole the mayorship away from a friend. I laughed and really enjoyed that one. I teased her since she was there for the same run and we joked about it.
As we were about to depart, one of the employees told me I had a phone call. Weird I thought. Who would be calling me at the store when my phone had good signal? I answered and was somewhat stunned. The guy on the other end identified himself and associated himself with Foursquare. You’ll have to forgive me, but since I wasn’t really paying full attention, I didn’t get that “name”. He was upset that I had stolen Mayorship of Footzone from “him” and wanted me to give it back. (You as puzzled as I was at that moment?) I told him that he’s more than welcome to join us, to which he rudely decline. He didn’t want to leave the safety and comfort of his home and his internet connection (mostly his words, not mine) just to check in somewhere. He wanted me to remove it from my account. The banter went back and forth mostly because I thought he was joking. He even said he hoped I would die! Now being in good humor I commented that since I was sick, that was entirely possible. (This did give him a moment to pause and retract that particular comment. He didn’t want me to die, really…) After a little more ranting, he hung up on me and I stared at the phone in disbelief. Seriously? You called the store, a store I don’t even own or work at, to whine at me? Get a life dude. Or better yet, respond to this so I can #followfriday you.
At this point I explained to my running group, and the store employees what had transpired in the conversation. @michellegamboa laughed as hard as I did about it and recommended I tweet about it. I really had to restrain myself from grabbing my phone to do so. Common sense won out though because I’d already delayed our running group long enough. But plan this post I did. To make it worse, later research showed that I did indeed steal it from my friend and none of the location visitor “handles” matched the one given to me over the phone. Seriously? Consider me shocked, amused and humbled. For the record, I’m humbled by the “rightness” of the stance others have taken against location based services and not the whining nature of idiots like this guy.