Yesterday, FourSquare updated its service to allow your friends to check you in to places (with your permission). It's not the only social network that lets friends check you in or tag you publicly; Facebook and Instagram can also out you. Here's how to turn it all off and take the wheel yourself.
"But, Lifehacker, if you use FourSquare/Facebook/etc, aren't you already forfeiting your privacy?" To a certain degree, you do trade privacy to use any of these social services. None of them have particularly stellar privacy policies. However, all of them have privacy settings and options to protect your privacy while you enjoy the features they have to offer. Choosing to use Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family is not the same thing as throwing your doors and windows open to the world, or giving your friends carte blanche to tell the world your business without your explicit consent. Here's how to disable friend check-ins and tagging on all of those services.
FourSquare's new friend check-in feature just builds on something that's been in the app for a long time. Your friends have had the option to check you in for a while if you're both at the same place, but yesterday's update brings it front and centre. The feature is completely opt-in, meaning if you had friend check-ins disabled before, it's disabled now. If you have it enabled, your friends can check in to a venue, tap the "I'm with..." button, and enter your name. You'll get a notification that your friend wants to check you in. If you accept, FourSquare will check you in (and that also opts you in to the feature). If you decline, you'll just be "mentioned" in their check-in.
Either way, if you want to control whether friends can check you in, head over to your FourSquare privacy settings, log in, and make sure "Save time by letting friends check you in" is unchecked. In the iOS and Android apps, you'll find this at the top level under the app's settings, and again under Account Settings > Privacy Settings. Make sure they're unchecked and you're good to go.
When Facebook Places launched, it was pretty easy to just disable friend check-ins and tagging. Unfortunately, when Facebook last "improved" and "simplified" its privacy settings, it took away the option to disable it. Now, you can't stop friends (or anyone, really), from just tagging you in a place or checking you in there. It's a pain, but there are workarounds.
For starters, Facebook notes that you can just remove those check-ins from your timeline, or remove yourself from a friend's post when you've been tagged. For a more permanent solution, you can toggle the visibility of tagged posts and photos on your timeline so only friends — or only you — can see them. Here's how:
- Go to your Timeline and Tagging settings tab in your account settings.
- Look for "Who can see posts you've been tagged in on your timeline?" and select the group you prefer, even if it's "Only Me". For good measure, you can toggle the same settings on the option below it, under "Who can see what others post to your timeline?"
- For good measure, you may also want to toggle the audience next to "When you're tagged in a post, who do you want to add to the audience if they aren't already in it?" to "Only Me". It defaults to "Friends", meaning your friends can see posts you're tagged in, even if they're not friends with the person who tagged you. If that's good enough, you're all set — just don't make it public, or else the world will know when a friend tags you in their check-in at the bar.
- At the top of the same settings page, you can toggle "Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline?" to "Enabled", which will only allow a friend's check-in or tagged post to appear on your timeline if you approve it. However, this doesn't stop the post from landing in your friends' news feeds or popping up elsewhere on Facebook — just your timeline. It's a good option to control how your profile looks to others when they view it, but not much else.
Toggling these settings will keep a tag-happy friend from broadcasting to all of your mutual friends (or to the public through your profile) when you're hanging out together, but you'll still have to be vigilant. Facebook doesn't offer a simple opt-out of such tagging, which is a bummer. For more tips, check out our always-up-to-date guide to managing your Facebook privacy.
Instagram isn't technically a location-sharing service, but since you can attach your GPS location to your posts and you can tag people in those posts, it's essentially the same thing. A public Instagram post can out you at the bar when you're supposed to be studying or at home when you told friends you were out of town just as easily as a FourSquare blast. Plus, the photo is added to your "Photos of You" tab on your profile page for all to see.
Thankfully, it's really easy to turn it off, but you'll have to do it from the Instagram mobile apps, not the web app:
- Open the Instagram app, and tap the Profile button to view your profile.
- Tap the "Photos of You" tab on your profile (the icon that looks like a person in a tag).
- Once you're viewing the Photos of You tab, tap the settings button.
- You'll see "Choose how you want photos of you added to your profile". The default is "Add Automatically". Select "Add Manually" to approve any photos that tag you before they're added to your profile.
Of course, this doesn't stop other people from tagging you and posting the photo — tag and all — to their own profiles, but it does stop the photos from showing up on your profile, and all posts with you tagged in them will be automatically hidden unless you specifically allow them.
If you have old photos you don't want to be tagged in anymore or that you want hidden from your profile, here's what you do:
- Select the photo you've been tagged in. Tap it so the tags pop up, and tap your Instagram username.
- You'll get a pop-up window, with options to "Show on My Profile" or "Hide from My Profile." Tap "Hide".
- If you want to go nuclear, you can remove your tag entirely by tapping "Remove Me from Photo" in the same window.
Facebook, FourSquare and Instagram are probably some of the worst offenders here. We dug into Google Local and Latitude, but location sharing on those services is limited to you and what you share. Your friends or people you've circled can't check you into places. They can mention you in their posts, but they can't hijack your profile by posting the fact that you were somewhere, or share your location with your friends or the public on your behalf. That's how it should be across all location-sharing networks, but at least you have the option to turn off third-party sharing on the ones that take a different approach.