02 March, 2011

Intern Sweatshop: Josh Just Checked-in at...

My friend told me a story the other day of why he deleted his Foursquare from his iPhone and decided he would never use it again. His story made me rethink my own usage of one of the more fun social network games out there and look at the larger issue at play.

My friend had innocently checked in at about a dozen or so places as he had a bunch of stuff to do that day and wanted to see if he could grab any coveted mayoralships. Everything was going fine until he checked-in at lunch for a business meeting and on Foursquare.

Before he finished his meal, about thirty minutes after he checked-in, someone showed up at the restaurant JUST to ask him a question. Confused and slightly worried, he asked, “How did you know I was here?”

The person shrugged and responded with “I checked your Foursquare.” Creepy!

It seems this person was following my friend around all day by using Foursquare to track him down. This person was always one step behind my friend and had driven to each spot my friend checked-in at in hopes of tracking him down and asking him this million dollar question. Super Creepy!

Worse yet, this person had his number and didn’t even try calling him first. At least in Scream the killer would call before he killed you. Was it really that important that you had to stalk him instead of calling him?!?!

This whole ordeal begs the question, is where you are really the smartest thing to advertise on your social networking sites?

We share ourselves all over the Internet with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and all the other social media outlets that are at our disposal and now we have a couple outlets that let people know where we are at all times; the two top outlets being Facebook Places and Foursquare. These applications were explicitly created to allow you to tell your friends where you are, at what time, and who you’re with.

You can check in at bars, restaurants, department stores, highways, etc (Yes, I said highways). With these outlets people can even create check-ins for their homes with their address on it.

Personally, I do not want someone knowing where I live or when I am not at home. I feel like this could lead to some serious stalking or burglary. With these apps you are telling someone “This is where I live and I am not home. So if you want to rob me, go for it.”Or “I am here and I may be here for the next couple hours.”

Ironically, Please Rob Me exists to do just that.

This site was created as a campaign to bring this serious issue and threat to everyone’s attention. They have done a great job spreading awareness of how serious this issue is. But will people really heed their warning? Does the thrill of the hunt of badges and the prospect of gaining 10% off at a yogurt stand through a mayoral incentive outweigh the possible risks?

I used to check-in a lot; to gain “badges”, “mayorship” and the coupons you get with being “the mayor of OMG THIS IS MY FAVORITE BAR” but after hearing this story I’ve definitely made the conscious decision to cut back on my check-ins. I think my safety is more important than digital badges and free food.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe Facebook Places and Foursquare are great ways to expand social media but the people using these new outlets need to be educated more on the dangers that come with using these outlets.

So who is responsible?

Is it the responsibility of these companies to teach users how to use these outlets properly? Should parents, who have no knowledge or understanding of these social networking sites, be the ones to teach their kids? Or should the responsibility fall solely on the person crazy enough to post private information for the world to see?
Some things are private for a reason but if you put your life all over the Internet be prepared to deal with the consequences.

On a related note, these so-called “badges” hold no real value but my shiny Charizard Pokemon card is worth more than all these “badges” combined.

Josh Pelc Account Executive Intern/ Not Justin Beiber (so please stop following me everywhere I go!!!)

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