Post Classifieds

You're checking in but who's checking in on you

By Thomas Carson
On March 9, 2012


"I got started with Foursquare through my friend Alex, she had gotten a new iPhone and told me about the app," said Chelsea Copeland, a 24-year-old senior communications major from Barre, Vt.  "She told me that it was a fun way to keep track of where your friends are."

But because all of Chelsea's friends knew where she was all the time, this led to some problems after she started using it.

"This one guy friend-requested me, and I figured he had gone to Norwich or something but he didn't. He lived in the Berlin area (near Barre) and he was trying to get my attention."

For millions of people, social media sites and applications are becoming a way of life. Foursquare, a smartphone application that allows the user to ‘check-in' to different locations, is popular for its features and discounts but can post a hazard for stalking among female users.

"I think of it as more of a contest between your friends to see who can go the most places and check-in honestly about it," said Copeland.

The man that friend-requested Copeland, however, would comment on all of her check-in's and send her comments.

"He would send me comments that said ‘you are really hot' and other inappropriate things," said Copeland. "So I ended up deleting my Foursquare for a while because I didn't feel comfortable or safe."

One thing that most Foursquare users will do is make their home a check-in point. "I have made my home a check-in point, and it really hasn't worried me yet," said Copeland. "It's just a way for my friends to check-in to my house."

What most people don't realize is that when doing so they are revealing an exact GPS or street address of where their personal residence is located, which could also be a potential problem.

But not all stalking happens to women. For Jake Esbjerg, a 24-year-old freshman communications major from Burlington, Vt., and his brother, Foursquare made their lives bothersome.

"I was introduced to Foursquare by my brother because he is big on social media, and as soon I got into it I was immediately hooked," said Esbjerg.

Foursquare has many uses, from knowing where your friends are to even getting discounts at local stores. "One cool thing that Foursquare offers is electronic coupons, so if you check-in to a store and they have this coupon, you get the discount."

But because you know where all of your friends are all of the time, Jake and his brother ran into some problems. "I don't always want people to know where I am all of the time, everyone wants to have their privacy," said Esbjerg.

"My brother had one of his ex-girlfriends follow him for the last three years since they broke up. And because of Foursquare, she knows where he is all the time."

Since Jake's brother's break up, he has had to block many numbers from his phone and social networking sites. And the stalking does affect other people who are friends with the victim.

"It did affect me because I dislike the girl very much, and I had to deal with her for five years before the break up, and the stalking afterwards," said Esbjerg.

"I had made my home a check-in and I found out that you can make the address private, but people know where I live and when I check in, it defeats the purpose."

All social media websites have their downsides, but they also have their upsides too. Many people use Foursquare and have never had any issues with stalking or anything else.

"I haven't really had a problem (with Foursquare)," said Alex Johns 22, from Barre, Vt. "I only have a handful of friends that use the app and they don't really seem to care where I check in."

"Checking in definitely allows for people to stalk you and see where you are. However, you are the one that is checking in, so in the end if you don't want to feel stalked then you shouldn't check in every place that you go throughout the day."

For Parker Babbe, a 20-year-old junior business major from Santa Barbara, Cal., Foursquare can seem competitive.  "Some friends of mine were using it and when I got a smartphone, it was one of the apps that was recommended to me and it became a competition."

"Sometimes it feels kind of weird that everyone can know where you are," said Babbe. "It's just one more way that you can get a look into someone else's life."

If someone knew what they were doing, they could easily obtain the address and or GPS location through the website. There is even a YouTube video of people getting the phone numbers of people on Foursquare and prank-calling them.

  "Only my phone knows where it is (Babbe's home on Foursquare)," said Babbe "And when you go into the program files of Foursquare, it actually gives you a Longitude and Latitude of where that person is."

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