End User mobile connectivity social networking

Location – Foursquare, the Isle of Man and Apple #deappg

harbour lights in Douglas IoM

Last week as the Isle of Man Steam Packet ferry approached Douglas harbour I “checked in” on Foursquare to a location called the “Sea Terminal”. I also uploaded a lovely picture of the watery reflections of the multicolour harbour lights. Beautiful it was.

Then as I got into the car to drive off the ferry I received a text message telling me I had just run up £17.02 (ex VAT) on data roaming charges. Ooo! That was before I had even set foot on the Isle of Man. The notion that I might leave data roaming switched on for the week was out of the question.

I was fortunate in having free WiFi where I was staying. I did however occasionally switch on roaming in order to check in at various Foursquare locations and am now proud to announce that I am Mayor of Peel Breakwater, Fenella Beach and The Grove.

Uhuh! So what do I hear? Well to some extent you are right. Foursquare is currently just a game. It may prove to have its uses but for now I am just having a play.

There are multiple issues here.

Firstly I want to be able to roam and not worry about the cost. The solution here is down to the mobile networks and the EU. Although in business I make money from selling mobile services in the long run I don’t believe the pricing is sustainable considering the behavioural changes in the mobile market.

Secondly is the point that I am choosing to publish my location to anyone that wants to see.

Whilst I was on holiday the hoohah over Apple and their gathering of location data hit the headlines. I can see both sides of the debate here.

On one hand there is potentially a massive and as yet nascent market for the information. There are even benefits to the user – finding a lost phone is one example.

On the other hand when I sign in on Foursquare I do so at locations of my choice. I have control. This control is manifested as opting not to check in at certain locations (actually when I was on holiday I also did this by switching roaming on and off as I needed it).

We the end users need to have total control over the location data provided by a mobile device. We need to be able to opt in if a device collects this data. This opt in process needs to be highly visible.

As a society we are still learning how to live in an open, internet based world. Even with an opt in I’m not sure that we really understand the implications. We are all still learning.

Government will also be interested. After all governments like control. They like to know where you are.  Clearly we should fight this and we should certainly not let private corporations access the data without fully understanding the implications of doing so.

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

4 replies on “Location – Foursquare, the Isle of Man and Apple #deappg”

I’m not a ‘Foursquare’ user – but for an outsider seeing numerous Foursquare tweets can get rather tedious! I’m in the park, I’m in the Post Office, I’m in the supermarket…
Does Foursquare have to tweet locations or can interested people just view locations from the Foursquare website?

As an Android family(!) I make use of Google’s Latitude when I need to keep track of my children – can be useful and it’s all optional – something Apple would have been wise to copy.

Also apps like Where’s My Droid are great when you are meeting someone – again optional and password protected.

Slightly off-topic, but if you have an old (can be very tatty) Android or iPhone kicking around (as more and more people will as they upgrade or crack the screen etc.) then they make great free GPS ‘Trackers’ for your car 🙂 You just have to keep it charged and put a cheap sim in it – then you can text it and get the exact location via return text if your car’s gone missing or you’ve forgotten where you’ve left it!


Thanks for the comment. tweeting your foursquare check in is optional but I do note your input 🙂

Also I don’t really know the right answer yet in respect of location and privacy. I suspect in the end we are all going to be trackable online and will have to live with it. Doesn’t stop us trying to stop it though.

I think people need a coarser option – NMI (nearest major intersection) instead of exact location. Only if such a user hits 911 (US) / 999 (UK) will their exact location be broadcast. In San Francisco NMI-mode would broadcast Balboa Park Stn. for someone just downhill at Geneva + Cayuga. Or Geneva + Mission for someone at the drugstore near Geneva + Paris.

Part of the tempest over the iPhone / iPad tracking is coming from people not reading the fine print on one or more user agreements. Another part is a lack of clarity on Apple’s part about what they are collecting, how it may benefit their users (cheaper location services for one), and what privacy safeguards are in place. Remember this – People’s lives are like jigsaw puzzles and computers make it all too easy to assemble the pieces into a revealing picture.

‘Apple is not “recording your moves,” Urban Edition!’(Blog post at, 21 Apr.2011)
“Congress queries Microsoft, Apple, Google on mobile privacy”( article, )

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