The always-on tracking feature is a change with the most recent version of the app, the Wall Street Journal reports. That app no longer offers the familiar options to check in at various locations and earn badges, but instead basically follows users around and encourages them to write Yelp-style tips and reviews about the places they go.
The tracking doesn’t just take place when mobile users open the app, though. It takes place literally any time their phones are powered on. Even if you’ve just booted up your phone and have forgotten that Foursquare was ever installed on there, it’s now watching where you go.
Although older versions of Foursquare did have the location-tracking feature built in, according to the WSJ, the big difference is that in the newest update to the software location-tracking is now enabled by default. Users can opt-out, but must first realize that they are being tracked at all times, then go into the app’s settings to disable the feature.
Foursquare boss Dennis Crowley told the WSJ that the invasion of privacy is all in the name of money — which the company is currently failing to make. “Tracking user whereabouts could arm Foursquare with more valuable data it can sell to partners and advertisers as it searches for new streams of revenue. The company hopes to analyze trends in where users go and what destinations are popular, and may sell that data to its partners,” the WSJ reports.
Crowley also told the WSJ that he thinks users will be fine with the change because it will improve the recommendations they get for nearby food and services. “It’s been our philosophy since we started that as long as we are recycling the data back to people, people will be interested in using the services,” he told the WSJ. “You can’t just collect a lot of information off people and not doing anything with it. It’s not a fair trade.”
In exchange for tracking your location and movements every time you leave the house and then selling that data to whomever they please, Foursquare might tell you if there’s a sushi joint nearby it thinks you might like, even if you “forgot” to open the app. Crowley’s exactly right: that doesn’t sound like a fair trade at all.
Foursquare Now Tracks Users Even When the App Is Closed [Wall Street Journal]