Why You Should Delete Your (Ancient) Foursquare Data

Why You Should Delete Your (Ancient) Foursquare Data

Remember Foursquare? I used to use it (and the company’s other apps) to keep detailed, digital recordings of everywhere I went, which was the cool thing to do back in 2010. And while I don’t use Foursquare’s Android or iOS apps anymore, I’ve given the company a lot of information about me. Thankfully, it’s easy to see all the data the company has collected from you — and delete it.

You might be wondering why this is important right now. If you haven’t used the app in some time, it’s still a good privacy practice to review and manage your data. And why let let your accounts sit dormant when you can take a few minutes to delete them? (That’s even factoring in the amount of time it might take you to reset the password you’ve long since forgotten)

If you’re a current Foursquare user, reviewing and managing your data is even more important. As Intelligencer recently described:

In addition to all of those active check-ins, at some point Foursquare began collecting passive data using a ‘check-in button you never had to press.’ It doesn’t track people 24/7 (in addition to creeping people out, doing so would burn through phones’ batteries), but instead, if users opt-in to allow the company to ‘always’ track their locations, the app will register when someone stops and determine whether that person is at a red light or inside an Urban Outfitters. The Foursquare database now includes 105 million places and 14 billion check-ins. The result, experts say, is a map that is often more reliable and detailed than the ones generated by Google and Facebook.

Here’s an even more eye-opening figure from Intelligencer’s report: “All told, the company now has “interest profiles” for over 100 million U.S. consumers.”

How to view all the data Foursquare’s apps have collected on you

This one’s easy. Simply visit your Foursquare Privacy Settings and click on the can’t-miss-it “Export My Data” button. You’ll then receive an email at the address associated with your Foursquare account, and it’ll look something like this:

ImageScreenshot: David Murphy

Then, you’ll need to do a bit of waiting. As the email indicates, this data-request service isn’t immediate. Nor is it a “I’ll go watch a little Netflix while I wait” kind of a deal. In the meantime, however, you can spend a little time tweaking your Foursquare privacy settings to lock down how your data is used, assuming you aren’t planning to quit the service entirely.

Tweak these Foursquare privacy settings

There aren’t a ton of options you can play with via Foursquare’s web-based account settings, but there are a few worth checking out. First off, consider what kind of activity you’re sharing with your social networks.

Perhaps you didn’t realise that your Foursquare app is feeding into more social networks than you thought; or you simply don’t want to let the entire world (of your friends) know what you’re up to. Regardless of the reason, click on that link and disconnect any social networks from Foursquare that you want. I’ve removed all of them, but I’m a bit reclusive.

ImageScreenshot: David Murphy

After that, jump down to “Connected Apps.” Like most other services, you can use this section to disconnect any apps that are tapping into your Foursquare data. I’d remove everything because, again, digital recluse, but it’s at least worth pruning out any sites or services you no longer use.

ImageScreenshot: David Murphy

Finally, click on “Privacy Settings.” The checked boxes should be pretty self-explanatory — disable whatever you want, like Foursquare’s background-location sharing or targeted advertising. Once you’ve done that, make sure you check out this link to delete any background location data Foursquare has already collected from you.

ImageScreenshot: David Murphy

You can also go into the Foursquare or Swarm apps on your Android or iOS devices and disable background location-sharing, assuming you’re keeping the services around. If not…

Deleting your Foursquare account

There’s no way to pick-and-choose which location data you want Foursquare to have. If you’re done with the service, or want to remove all of your data from it, deleting your account is easy. Click on this link to Foursquare’s “Delete Account” page, look for the big red scary button, and give it a click.

ImageScreenshot: David Murphy

You’ll have to enter your password to confirm that you want to delete your account, but that’s the only real hurdle you’ll have to leap over to finish the process. Again, if you’ve requested a data dump from Foursquare, make sure you receive that before you delete your account, or else that request won’t process.

To Foursquare’s credit, the process — on your end, at least — is instantaneous. You’ll be dumped back to Foursquare’s homepage, and attempting to log in with your old credentials will do nothing.

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