Location-based "check-in" apps privacy risk

Think Foursquare and Yelp and the one thing that springs to mind if you are technical is “geo-tagging”. These apps allow for GPS, wi-fi, bluetooth, cell site triangulation “check-in” which allows users to find shops, restaurants and landmarks close to a users mobile location. The user can then “check-in” and share their location with Facebook, MySpace or Twitter friends for example. Clever stuff indeed.

The deal-hunter (known as “check-in”) apps do provide rewards i.e. if you check in at some stores, say four times you get something for free on the fifth visit. A clever technology developed by startup Shopkick actually uses “mobile-audio” to deliver location-based messages. Shopkick uses a speaker that sends an audio signal to the mobiles microphone that is in the “geo-location” and that has the shopkick app running. This is a smart technology innovation.

There is a downside to using these “check-in” apps. they all broadcast a users location and your shopping habits to others on the app network or to your Facebook or Twitter friends and feeds. Foursquare does allow you to turn off “sharing your location” but that defeats the object of using it. Shopkick only works if you have their app – so it’s really a case of “user-beware”. It’s up to you whether you value your personal data and your “location” privacy.  

TIP: Employers will use location-based apps to monitor and or analyse staff (even out of office hours). You have been warned!

Safe surfing folks!

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