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Foursquare's New Privacy Policy Expands Brands' Insights

Location app makes users' full names viewable publicly

Amid the furor over Instagram’s proposed policy changes two weeks ago, it would make sense for other apps to postpone any updates of their own. Not Foursquare.

The location-based sharing and discovery service has announced revisions to its privacy policy that will give locations and brands a better look at their Foursquare followings.

In detailing the changes to its 30 million users, Foursquare prioritized the decision to display users’ full names publicly a la Facebook. But the big change for businesses is a more comprehensive view of who has checked into their stores, restaurants, etc.

Right now businesses only have a three-hour window to view check-ins as well as the total number of check-ins at a given location if an individual user is among the 10 most recent check-ins. Businesses also can see how many times a user has checked-in at a given location if that user is one of the top 10 most frequent visitors.

Effective Jan. 28, Foursquare will extend that three-hour viewing period, though the company has yet to say by how much. Foursquare did not immediately respond to questions emailed on Monday.

Foursquare also has beefed up its abilities for non-location-based brands, including some new language that gives brands a better idea of who their (aggregated and anonymized) Foursquare audience is.

For example, a sports team with a Foursquare brand page, such as the Los Angeles Clippers, could hypothetically see that most of the 1,044 Foursquare users that like its page frequently check into locations near the team’s practice facility. Given such knowledge, the team could partner with one of those locations in a promotion that enables users that check in to also attend a practice session.

In announcing the new privacy policy, Foursquare seems to have considered the potential for blowback along the lines of the confused outcry that ultimately caused Instagram to backpedal. Foursquare has amended its Frequently Asked Questions page with plain English explanations of the changes. Those FAQs don’t go into much detail on what the changes are, but instead aim to help users wrap their heads around why Foursquare is making the changes and how users can opt out. 

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