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Foursquare to show users' full names, share more data

Check-in service details new privacy policy changes but notes that users will still have control over the names and information being made available.


Foursquare has begun notifying users of privacy policy updates that will begin making more user information and data public next month.

Beginning January 28, 2013, users' "full names" will be displayed across the check-in service, and venue owners will have increased access to users' check-in data, the company announced in an e-mail sent to users late last night. It also published a document called "Privacy 101" to explain the new changes.

The service currently sometimes shows full names but often displays just users' first name and last initial -- except when looking up friends on the service.

"In the original versions of Foursquare, these distinctions made sense," Foursquare explained in its e-mail. "But we get e-mails every day saying that it's now confusing."

After the privacy policy changes take effect, all users' full names will be displayed everywhere across the service. However, users will still have control of the name displayed by altering their "full name" in their settings.

The policy changes will also give venue owners access to more recent data about user check-ins at the venue. Businesses on Foursquare currently have access to information about customers who checked in during the previous three hours; after January they will see more recent check-ins, although Foursquare didn't indicate how much more

"This is great for helping store owners identify their customers and give them more personal service or offers," Foursquare noted. "But a lot of businesses only have time to log in at the end of the day to look at it."

As with the "full name" setting, users can opt out of letting venue owners see their check-in information.

Foursquare's careful explanation of the new policies comes in the wake of an Instagram user revolt over new privacy policies that appeared to grant the Facebook-owned service perpetual rights to sell users' photographs without notifying or compensating the photographer. Instagram quickly backpedaled, with Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom apologizing for failing to clearly communicate the company's intentions.