Jan 302013
 January 30, 2013  Posted by  Business, Online

Back in December, some of us were impressed when Foursquare rolled out its new privacy policy a month in advance so users would have time to read it and understand it.  The revised policy seemed to be a model of transparency in terms of its statements on how, going forward, full names would be disclosed. They also provided a new FAQ to answer questions about the policy.

But kudos quickly turned to confusion when a comparison of their new privacy policy to their existing Terms of Service revealed a conflict between what the privacy policy said, what Foursquare was saying in their media statements that nyms were still permitted, and what their TOS said about “truthful” information being required for registration.

I contacted Foursquare in December to get clarification on the apparent contradiction between their privacy policy and their TOS, as did a few other privacy advocates.

Their press office never responded to my inquiry, despite having gotten it.

After a few tweets, their support department responded, telling me – and others who asked – that the issue was under internal review and they’d get back to me.

Every few days thereafter, Foursquare tried to close the support ticket that was submitted as  a media or press ticket.

Every few days, I replied that they shouldn’t close the ticket, because I still didn’t have an answer and neither did their users.

On January 28, Foursquare’s new privacy policy went into effect.

On January 28, their Terms of Service, last updated in August 2011, remained in effect.

Foursquare has an obligation to come up with a policy and a TOS that are consistent with each other as to whether real names are required or nyms are permissible.

Giving out one’s location information is risky, in my opinion.  People who register for Foursquare using their full real name because they believe they have to to use the service are taking unnecessary risks if nyms would be permissible.  Not everyone would care to use nyms, but for those who are concerned, it should be an option.

After one month of “internal reviews,” Foursquare should make a statement resolving the conflict.  Hopefully, they’ll revise their TOS and clarify some wording in their privacy policy to plainly allow nyms. But at the very least, the plain language of their privacy policy and their TOS should agree with each other.

 UPDATE: Foursquare has now resolved the conflict, and in a pro-privacy way. See this post.

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