Please Stalk Me

Senior Lauren Smith arrived at the food court in the Willowbrook Mall at 7:02 p.m. Why do you know this? Because it has been broadcasted to over 50 of her friends and countless strangers on foursquare. If you do not know where the mall is, you can just open up her latest tweet on Twitter and find her exact coordinates. Even though knowing this may sound creepy, invasive, and illegal, more than 10 million foursquare users and over 200 million Twitter users around the world are engaging in similar activity every day.

Foursquare is an up-and-coming application created in 2009 on which users “check in” at local venues to be awarded points and sometimes even ”badges.” Even though the older and more widely used social network, Twitter, has a similar location-tracking function, this new application has caused a lot of talk about where to draw the line on our privacy.

The most common reaction among proponents for the app, like senior Alyssa Merwin, is that it’s competitive and like a game. Alyssa says, “The points and badges just make it fun.” While waiting for your order, standing on line, or just walking around any venue, users can find something to do by opening their application and checking in. Sometimes the badges are even more rewarding with their uniqueness; for instance, a user can go to the Harry Potter midnight premier and earn a Harry Potter badge! It seems fun and harmless.

However, along with the fun and games come serious privacy issues that have never before been problems. A new website titled ‘Please Rob Me’ has tried to raise awareness about the dangers of over-sharing by marking the empty and “robbable” houses in the area. The website also scans Twitter feeds to find locations being talked about and then messages those users with “Hi @NAME, did you know the whole world can see your locations through Twitter.”

In an extreme way, the website makes the obvious point that by publishing your address on foursquare and then confirming that they are somewhere else, users risk the safety of their homes and belongings. Senior Colleen Carr can see the sketchy side of it and doesn’t understand why people would “give away their locations and risk their safety just to get badges and points that don’t mean anything.”

When will we draw the line on our privacy? The number of teenagers and young adults using foursquare grows daily in unexpected amounts. While some would think it’s an obvious risk that should not be taken lightly, there are still millions of teenagers who care more about playing a game on their Smartphones. However, this game that they are playing is becoming less and less about earning mayorships and badges, and more and more about seriously risking their safety.