December 31, 2012
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
It hasn´t been long since Instagram decided to implement a few new changes to their Terms of Service (ToS), changes which not only angered many users but also caused as many as 25% of them to stop using the service.
Though Instagram founder Kevin Systrom quickly backpedaled, the damage has been done. Yet just days after the fact, another social site has decided to give their privacy policies a once over as well. According to an email sent to users on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year´s — the timing of which cannot be ignored — Foursquare will now begin sharing users´ “Full Names,” removing that last initial when outsiders are searching for a specific individual.
Businesses will also have access to more information about who checked into their establishment, giving these businesses an opportunity to transform the electronic relationship between themselves and their potential new customers.
While these changes may be relatively benign, Foursquare is approaching them very cautiously after watching the fallout from the latest Instagram debacle. Like Instagram´s decision and subsequent reversal, these changes are aimed at making Foursquare a more viable and ultimately more profitable service by providing businesses with more information about their customers.
“Currently, Foursquare sometimes shows your full name and sometimes shows your first name and last initial (“John Smith” vs. “John S.”),” explains Foursquare in their email to users. The check-in service will soon be reversing this decision, saying they receive emails everyday calling this first name and last initial listing “confusing.”
While full names will soon be going public, it is also important to mention that Foursquare offers their users the ability to change their full name and even explains how to do so in their email. For example, those Foursquare users´ who are particularly skittish about their privacy can change their name to “Don´t Trackme” or some equally misleading pseudonym.
Secondly, Foursquare will now allow businesses to see an even longer list of who has checked-in to their establishment on a given day. As it stands, businesses can only see who has checked-in on Foursquare during the previous three hours.
“This is great for helping store owners identify their customers and give them more personal service or offers. But a lot of businesses only have time to log in at the end of the day to look at it. So, with this change, we're going to be showing them more of those recent check-ins, instead of just three hours worth,” explains Team Foursquare in their email to users.
Again, Foursquare gives users the opportunity to adjust their settings before these changes go into effect. If users decide that they do not want their check-in data shared with businesses, they can simply opt out of this feature in their account settings.
What sets these changes apart from Instagram´s latest fiasco is Foursquare´s willingness to let users opt out rather than simply making sweeping changes for anyone and everyone who uses the service. Additionally, these changes will probably seem less invasive for users who are already accustomed to sharing their exact location (and often exact meal plans) with the world.