This is actually one half of the rant I want to spew, the other half is how businesses are misunderstanding the true use of Location Based Services. I’ll post that later today. This rant really covers only the following tools: Foursquare, Gowalla, Google Latitude. Why am I not going into Loopt or Brightkite or any of these other LBS services? Well they aren’t as exciting to me, and there is only a small amount of time for me to get my point across.
So first up, let’s talk about the privacy issues surrounding LBS. I’ll assume you are familiar with Twitter and Facebook at this point, and the privacy implications therein. So in those big social services you are sharing your thoughts, free speech, thats great. However that doesn’t really get any more intrusive than doing what I’m doing right now, publishing my thoughts on a blog. The dynamics might be different, but the idea is the same. I’m publishing words for the world. Location services have shifted the message from being about what you’re thinking to where you are doing that thinking. There is an important safety issue to take into account here, especially as your network grows, and your checkins get publicized (strangers might not see them on your 4SQ page, but they see them when you cross-post to twitter). Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not even touching on the “please rob me” site that shows when people check in away from home, that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.
Oh yeah, did you know foursquare shares your phone number with your new “friends” ? Maybe I should go through with my plan to only accept friend requests from cute women on foursquare… hmm.
Beyond the safety issues inherent in all these services, is the quality of the connections. I have a substantial twitter following compared to the average user, but I don’t want them knowing where I am all the time. Those are loose connections, loose bonds. Very few of the people I follow/follow me on twitter are my real friends who I would want to hang out with in real life. Actually it may even be simpler: I have no interest in knowing where some random person from twitter whom I’ve never met is going tonight. So I ask you, why would you want to automatically connect with all your twitter or possibly facebook friends on location based services?
Real friendships = real trust = safe for LBS/interesting to follow
Loose friendships = no real trust = not safe for LBS/uninteresting to follow
Maybe I’m missing the point, but I welcome you to correct my viewpoint. Unless you are an event promoter, why would you want/need 5000 people knowing where you are going (cough Scoble cough).
So if you take nothing away from this post, please don’t take offense when I don’t accept your foursquare/gowalla/brightkite friendship.