Dec 312012
 December 31, 2012  Posted by  Business, Online

If foursquare’s intention was to make their user name display policy less confusing, they may not have succeeded just yet. A conversation on Twitter last night with Jules Polonetsky and Greg Norcie made me aware that foursquare may have yet more clarifying to do.

Although their email to users cites their updated privacy policy and new Privacy 101 page and Privacy FAQs,  some confusion arises as to whether “full name” means  full real name  or whatever full name you signed up that might be a pseudonym.

In its e-mail to users, Foursquare writes (emphasis added by me)

We will now display your full name. Currently, Foursquare sometimes shows your full name and sometimes shows your first name and last initial (“John Smith” vs. “John S.”). For instance, if you search for a friend in Foursquare, we show their full name in the results, but when you click through to their profile page you don’t see their last name. In the original versions of Foursquare, these distinctions made sense. But we get emails every day saying that it’s now confusing. So, with this change, full names are going to be public. As always, you can alter your ‘full name’ on Foursquare at

That would suggest that pseudonyms are permitted. But in its Terms of Service, which has not been updated since August 25, 2011, they write:

Registration and Eligibility.

You may browse the Site and view Content without registering, but as a condition to using certain aspects of the Service, you are required to register with foursquare and represent, warrant and covenant that you provide foursquare with accurate, truthful, and complete registration information (including, but not limited to your name (“User Name”), e-mail address and a password you will use to access the Service) and to keep your registration information accurate and up-to-date. Failure to do so shall constitute a breach of these Terms of Use, which may result in immediate termination of your foursquare account.

You shall not:

  • provide any false personal information to foursquare (including a false User Name) or create any account for anyone other than yourself without such person’s permission;
  • use a User Name that is the name of another person with the intent to impersonate that person;
  • use a User Name or foursquare account that is subject to any rights of a person other than you without appropriate authorization; or
  • use a User Name that is a name that is otherwise offensive, vulgar or obscene or otherwise unlawful.


Well, if you have to use “truthful” details and you shall not provide any false information, then are pseudonyms disallowed? And if they’re disallowed, have they been enforcing that since last year?

Both Jules and Greg have sent inquiries to foursquare to seek clarification, and it may just be that foursquare hasn’t yet gotten around to editing its TOS to conform to the new privacy policy, but if the three of us are scratching our heads about what the new policy really means in terms of real names vs. pseudonyms, they do need to clarify.

I give credit to  foursquare, though, for trying to simplify and clarify their privacy policy changes. It’s a useful demonstration of advance notice and transparency in plain English. And I look forward to seeing their response and clarification.

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