What Foursquare's new privacy policy means for small businesses

What Foursquare's new privacy policy means for small businesses

Summary: Companies will now be able to see more of their recent customers who check in with the mobile location app, along with their full names.

TOPICS: SMBs, Mobility


If you are a retailer or restaurant that uses the Foursquare mobile location application, you'll want to read up on the company's new privacy policy, which takes effect on Jan. 28, 2013.

Foursquare allows people to "check in" at various establishments by using the application on an iPhone, Android device or BlackBerry. Almost 1 million businesses are listed on the merchant platform - and almost 25 million people use the app to offer their social networks insight into their location.

The benefit to the store, restaurant or merchant that Foursquare users are visiting is that the managers or in-store personnel can get a better idea about traffic during certain periods of time and keep tabs on returning versus new visitors. 

The benefit for potential shoppers or patrons is that they might gain access to special deals or promotions that might not otherwise be publicized.

One of the biggest changes is that Foursquare users' full names now will be displayed when they check in (by default). People will still be able to control how the name is displayed when they pick one in the first place (which means you won't necessarily see everyone's full name, but there will be difference from the past in that you are more likely to be able to collect more complete information, if someone chooses to share it).

The biggest revision, one that small-business owners should welcome, is that companies will now be able to access information about customer check-ins for more than the previous three-hour window they could see in the past. That means if your staff is too busy to check in the middle of the day, it could check after closing time and collect more customer information than might have been possible before.

Related stories:

Apple looks to boost mapping service with Foursquare data

Foursquare evolving into one-stop shop with NFC support

Topics: SMBs, Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I Cannot Imagine

    What would motivate someone to use an application like this. The motivation suggested, that the business might offer a deal or discount, could just as easily be achieved by being friendly to the staff and a good customer. Publishing your location and what merchants you frequent is, at the very least, egocentrism at its most inflamed if not outright madness.
    • I CAN Imagine

      Actually, it's not 'egocentrism' at work here - it's a technology-based way of referring people to a business you trust (like, whatever). We all do this in word of mouth exchanges ("Joe Blotz's got the best (fill in what you will) and friendly staff!) - Foursquare just allows individuals to 'send' a 'word of mouth' referral to a group of friends, family, whatever. Don't see it as egocentrism - just another method of referring a business you like to your associates...

      as to 'deals', yeah, you could benice to the staff, but they may not be authorized to pop 20% off a Chicken Gumbo Latte with Cocoa Crystals. The company decides on what they wish to offer and to whom - I suppose it's another form of 'loyalty' card - offer a deal to someone who is part of the Foursquare community who has at least popped in once or twice. I use my supermarket loyalty card to get a discount - and I can assure you that no matter how nice the checkout lady is, I'm not going to get a discount from her!

      (Disclaimer, I'm not a Foursquare member on either side of the coin - business or consumer. I just think that Foursquare has assmbled what we all do know (loyalty cards, deal shopping, referring friends to cool businesses) in one platform... and I guess that's the motivation to use it - we can share what we think is best amongst those who would respect our taste or judgement.
    • It's actually very simple, and "special deals" are the least of it

      I can understand why you might think of egocentrism, but where's the "outright madness"?

      Foursquare fulfills a very basic need for me and my friends and associates. It allows us to avoid dozens of phone calls that might interrupt meetings or otherwise bother people unnecessarily. For example, a large group of us traveled to a distant city for a convention. We were scattered across hotels and meeting areas that were reasonably far apart, and the schedule for lunch/drinks/dinner could not be established in advance. Foursquare made it simple to figure out where to go.

      Around my own town Foursquare serves the same purpose, but with friends instead of business associates. At home my motivation is also partly to support the small businesses that I enjoy - anything I can do to help them stay in business seems OK to me.

      By the way, I've never taken advantage of the "specials" even when there was one advertised - if they do give me something special I just end up giving it back as a bigger tip anyway - as you say, the friendly staff and good food/coffee/beer are what make me frequent an establishment.