Mainstream media anti-Foursquare hysteria is really hitting its stride.
First, a site called Please Rob Me caught the attention of the tech media. Then, the Guardian ran a bizarre article entitled “How I became a Foursquare cyberstalker.” This week, The Daily Beast followed suit with “Foursquare’s Stalker Problem.” A New York Times piece is no doubt in the works, with an aggrieved discussion on NPR to follow.
But here’s the truth about Foursquare’s stalker problem: it doesn’t have one.
Big media loves to freak out about new technology, but hates to actually think about new technology. So, for the most part, these stories freak out about the latest site for things that aren’t at all specific to the site in question.
The new Foursquare hysteria is an especially egregious case. The Guardian’s Leo Hickman breathlessly tells his Foursquare stalking story as if it were a spy novel: “[I] located her to within just a few square metres, accessed her Twitter account and conducted multiple cross-referenced Google searches using the personal details I have already managed to accrue about her from her online presence.”
Note that by “accessed her Twitter account,” Leo means that he read her entirely and intentionally public Twitter feed. To which she was intentionally publishing her Foursquare check-ins. Shocking.
The Daily Beast tells the story of Carri Bugbee and a stalker who “tracked down Bugbee through PleaseRobMe.com.” Please Rob Me searches public Twitter feeds for check-ins.
In fact, Foursquare doesn’t really figure into any of these stories. In each case, people gave up their location through Twitter, which everyone understands is entirely public. Foursquare users confirm that they want to publish their location on Twitter every time they check-in. And people talk about where they are on Twitter all the time without the help of third-party apps like Foursquare.
So why aren’t people wringing their hands over Twitter‘s stalker problem? Well, because Twitter has been around for a few years; being afraid of Twitter isn’t cool any more.
But this isn’t a problem with Twitter, either. Twitter is a public publishing platform. If you publish your location to the public, then, well, the public can know where you are. That is the entire stalker problem right there.
It takes a whole lot of technophobia to spin that into a serious issue. But we expect the mainstream media is just warming up.
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