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Foursquare on why recycling your data is good for you

CEO Dennis Crowley on the benefits--to consumers and to Foursquare--that come from taking user data and creating recommendations.

Foursquare co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
Roger Cheng/CNET

BARCELONA, Spain--When Foursquare co-founder and CEO Dennis Crowley talks about recycling data, he isn't talking about being green.

Crowley is referring to the wealth of data that comes in through its Foursquare mobile check-in app, which can be turned into a recommendation engine for consumers looking for new places to explore.

"We're enabling people to cut through the data stream in a way that no one has done before," Crowley said today during a keynote address at the Mobile World Congress show.

That kind of use of personal data may freak some users out, but Crowley said the suggestions and recommendations are well received. Foursquare has seen 15 million downloads, and has 750,000 merchants signed up. Foursquare has launched an Explore service to deliver these kinds of geographical locations.

"We're building this big community with Foursquare where people are sharing their data," he said.

Crowley described the service as the Marauder's Map, a essential tool in the Harry Potter series of novels and movies and a back-end way of calling its service magical.

His goal is to have Foursquare recommendation dots on any map, whether that be on a PC, smartphone, or other GPS system. He believes this online information will drive people to experience the real world.

The company will also introduce an avatar similar to Microsoft's old "Clippy" who will offer recommendations and suggestions on places to go. The idea is it would offer these suggestions wherever you go, and wouldn't require the app to be open all the time. Down the line, it'll be able to offer suggestions to places you've never been to, just based on past preferences.

In addition, Foursquare is moving into some part of the mobile transaction world. The company signed a partnership with American Express to push its deals directly to the credit card, so the discount is automatically applied once swiped. American Express then sends a text message back to the phone alerting the user of the discount used.