Heads Up: Foursquare Announces Changes To Privacy Policy, Will Share Your Full Name

(Foursquare)

(Foursquare)

Just reading the words “privacy policy” and “changes” tends to raise more than a few sets of hackles these days, in light of Instagram’s recent debacle. And now Foursquare is wading into the “we’re changing things, but please don’t freak out!” ring by emailing users that there have been a few tweaks to the service’s privacy policy.

The company sent out an email over the weekend to users, touting “over fifty new features” added in 2012 and almost 15 million new users. Which is all well and good, high fives, etc. Then Foursquare starts to talk about privacy, and how it’s important, noting that it’s posted a Privacy 101 page that lays out how privacy works for users as well as pointing to its full policy.

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Bolding is ours:

In addition to creating and refining those documents, we want to point out two specific changes to our policy, both of which will go into effect on January 28, 2013.

1. 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 https://foursquare.com/settings.

2. A business on Foursquare will be able to see more of their recent customers. Currently, a business using Foursquare (like your corner coffee shop) can see the customers who have checked in in the last three hours (in addition to the most recent and their most loyal visitors). This is great for helping store owners identify their customers and give them more personal service or offers. But a lot of businesses only have time to log in at the end of the day to look at it. So, with this change, we’re going to be showing them more of those recent check-ins, instead of just three hours worth. As always, if you’d prefer not to permit businesses to see when you check into their locations going forward, you can uncheck the box under ‘Location Information’ at https://foursquare.com/settings/privacy.

What does this mean? Should we all freak out and start threatening to quit Foursquare? We think not. Unlike other services (yes, we’re looking at you yet again, Instagram/Facebook) there is a way to opt out of having your full name displayed and keep yourself from businesses knowing you were there entirely built into its privacy settings.

That one small, yet important concession could be the difference between  a full scale freakout of “OHMYGODTHEYCHANGEDTHEIRPRIVACYPOLICYGETMEOUTTAHERE!” and “Oh, I better adjust my settings so I can keep my full name private.” The choice is up to you.

- Team Foursquare