An interesting point was made in passing by someone while on their Blackberry this weekend playing with the Foursquare beta. The person was checking in each time as everyone left the location. Instead of the way in. This prompted me to think about the reason for using the service at all and why even make the effort.
The point made was that while they like the history of where they visited and even the game of being “mayor”, the idea of someone knowing exactly where you are was disturbing. Knowing where they were was just fine. It still provided the level of sharing locations while adding a level of pseudo security by placing a time delay in someone seeing the check-in and walking out the door.
I contemplated over the weekend just how this affects not only the usage of the services (Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite, Latitude, Loopt and whatever), but the privacy concerns that aren’t addressed.
In usage, the goal of the services is to show where to are to presumably draw a crowd, establish a pattern in your visits and take some virtual ownership of that place. While Foursquare seems to be taking advantage of this by getting restaurants on board to give freebies or discounts away to mayors and the others provide notes and pictures to be loaded in, the real value relies in knowing your habits, travels and preferences.
The jumps right into privacy. I thought about spitting this to SocialStalking, but the reaches are much farther. How easy do we make ourselves a target in both the real location where we are and noting when we are not at our place of residence? Is there any legitimate fear in allowing people to know our location down to the few feet via GPS coordinates?
The race of early social network adopters was to enable sharing to as many friends as possible until we realized just how much data we were sharing to seemingly virtual friends. While many choose to check-in manually, many still turn on full automation through their phone GPS. I prefer to manually check-in to only create a history of visited places or to mark a specific restaurant I may not want to forget.
How do you handle the check in process? Do you do it when you arrive or when you walk out?