The Wall Street Journal reports on changes to mobile app Foursquare that radically increase the amount of tracking it does of its users. The changes raise substantial privacy questions. The Journal reports:
Hiding in Foursquare’s revamped mobile app is a feature some users might find creepy: It tracks your every movement, even when the app is closed.
Starting today, users who download or update the Foursquare app will automatically let the company track their GPS coordinates any time their phone is powered on. Foursquare previously required users to give the app permission to turn on location-tracking. Now users must change a setting within the app to opt out.
The update is an extreme shift for five-year-old Foursquare […]
Tracking user whereabouts could arm Foursquare with more valuable data it can sell to partners and advertisers as it searches for new streams of revenue. The company hopes to analyze trends in where users go and what destinations are popular, and may sell that data to its partners, Chief Executive Dennis Crowley said in an interview.
But this type of persistent location tracking could scare off users who are growing increasingly wary of threats to their mobile privacy. A third of smartphone owners surveyed by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in 2012 said they have turned off the location-tracking capability on their devices, and most of those people were motivated by privacy concerns.
Foursquare’s app goes beyond location-tracking features offered by competitors. Social apps like Twitter collect GPS coordinates to give users the option of sharing their location with friends, but don’t collect this data when the app is off. When Facebook introduced a “nearby friends” tool on its mobile app earlier this year, it required uses to opt in to the feature.