Foursquare: The Stalker’s Delight

Growing up in Southeastern United States, it may not (or it may) be a surprise to hear one of the most often vocalized concerns from neighbors, friends, and what not was the government intruding on its citizens’ privacy. This concern, of course, was inflamed with the terrorist scare and the passing of the Patriot Act, and has since caused near hysteria in many alarmed civilians.

But let’s not go there. The issue I wish to address today is one of severe irony in light of the aforementioned worries. Despite Americans’ (and probably citizens living in other developed countries) outrage at the government’s intrusion on their rights, they continue to utilize tools that render the government’s job of tracking them laughably easy, social media and cell phones being two of the best examples. Yet there is one example that trumps them all.

Foursquare.

For the uninitiated, Foursquare is an app available on Android and iOS that enables users to quickly find the best places around town, be it restaurants, stores for shopping, or virtually anything else. It is a handy tool to make the user’s life easier. Oh, and it gathers information on the best spots to visit by having its users check in to locations when they arrive.

So let’s examine this. Man complains his privacy is being invaded, saying the government has no business knowing where he is and what he is doing all day. Man keeps his cell phone on him, a device with GPS tracking that, let’s face it, can be used by the government to pinpoint your location. As if that’s not bad enough, man goes to the bar and, as he sits down to order his favorite brew, pulls out that phone, opens up the Foursquare app, and broadcasts to the social media world, “Hey, this is where I’m at! Come stalk me please!”

Now, I’m not criticizing. If you don’t care that people know when you’re home, have at it. You can even give your domicile a clever title for your friends’ amusement. (My brother-in-law dubbed his domicile “The Bat Cave.”) And it’s all in good fun, right? I suppose, like people who do you Foursquare, I am a hypocrite, as well, since I use social media and have a cell phone on my person at all times.

Still, there’s something unsettling to me about alerting all my friends each time I step foot in my home or work. For my part, I’ll stick with occasional social media posts and use the Facebook check-in on the rarest of circumstances, like going to a really awesome concert. If you choose otherwise, well, we live in a (sort of) free country. And that means you can get a restraining order when you start attracting stalkers.

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