Like many other sites that encourage users to share information, Foursquare and Facebook Places can be used relatively safely if you use them wisely.
Foursquare and Facebook Places both allow users to enter their location via cell phone apps. This allows friends to see where other friends are at any given time. You can see if any of your friends are nearby and they can connect with you.
There are also games associated with these applications that reward users for being in certain locations. For example, if you are the most frequent visitor to a certain business over a period of time, you may be declared “the mayor.” Some business will offer specials to frequent visitors.
The upside to these applications is that they are fun, you can connect with friends, and you might score some good deals at certain businesses. However, there are safety concerns associated with using Facebook Places and Foursquare.
So what are the risks and how can you use them safely?
The most important factor in keeping safe is understanding how the applications work. You need to know who you are sharing your information with. If you link your Twitter or Facebook accounts to Foursquare, you’ll potentially be broadcasting your location to a large circle of people.
Do you really want everyone in those circles to know where you are? Do you want all of those people to know you are away from home? If you do not make your tweets private, anyone can see your location. In addition, if you do not have your Facebook privacy settings set to “only friends”, strangers may see this information.
Foursquare and Facebook Places usage may lead to the increased risk of home invasions, personal assaults, and stalking. There are steps you can take to minimize these risks. For example, you can check in to locations on your way out. You can also check in “off the grid,” which will not broadcast your location to others.
Make sure you don’t list your home address on Twitter or other websites. The downside of these options is that you may want certain friends to see your location and they won’t. Remember, your location is only broadcast when you choose to check in at a location.