The trouble with Foursquare

I’m fairly dubious about claims that GPS-based social networking show-off app Foursquare could lead burglars to empty houses, prompting insurance claims for thousands of iMacs, X-Boxes and Garage Band kit as nerds around the country fall prey to social media criminals.

The idea that any of the smackheads who lurk at the road at the end of my street might be checking out my Crunked Badge status before jemmying open the back door and making off with my collection of Doctor Who DVDs strikes me as fairly remote.

But there is a significant downside to Foursquare that no-one has really discussed. It’s the fact that my heavy drinking has been exposed to me in terrifyingly irrefutable binary data.

What all of those dots and code and pixels add up to is the fact that I have a significant drinking problem*, my check-ins forming an accusatory dot-to-dot around Liverpool like interconnecting veins on a discolored liver.

In under a month I’ve checked in at at least twelve different pubs, bars and clubs, more than once in many instances. And I’ve been unable to check in on several occasions due to lack of iPhone, lack of reception, or – bafflingly – lack of the kind of social media twattery that compels me to start fiddling about with my phone the second I enter a building.

This adds up to a very sorry state of affairs, from the perspective of anyone viewing my life through lens of my Foursquare status updates.

Where are the check-ins of the galleries, theatres, cafes, parks and restaurants I’ve visited? Why did I not check in at those places? I’m just glad I didn’t check in at the off-licenses I’ve visited over the last month.

All of this does raise the possibility of new apps that use a FourSquare API to pretty much create a kind of location-based tapestry of your life – which could reveal all sorts of unsavoury information if you allow your phone to merrily pass on your location to all and sundry.

All of a sudden those unexplained visits to a house on the other side of town could start looking suspicious; that day spent at a rival business could need some explaining; the repeat trips to the bookies; those lonely late-night visits to a brothel, a late-night garage or a crack den…

The possibilities are endless. There’s probably a pleasant upside to these tools, but it’s not immediately clear what they are. As it is, I’m probably lucky to escape looking only like a rather hapless boozehound.

• You can find Robin on Foursquare here

* I’d like to make it clear that, as far as I’m concerned, I have no such drinking problem. Then again, I would say that wouldn’t I?

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