Location Based Services – A Woman’s Perspective

I’ll admit it, when the concept became a reality over a year ago, I was one of those skeptics that didn’t quite get the purpose behind the medium.  Just like when Twitter first came out, we all asked ourselves, “Who cares what we’re doing?” only with location-based services it’s, “Who cares where I am?”

While many of my friends and colleagues in the social media space would check-in here, there, and everywhere, I refused to use the Foursquare’s of the world because quite frankly, I didn’t see the point.  Then, I realized what the benefits are and immediately jumped on the bandwagon opening up a profile with Foursquare (and later with Triangle-based, TriOut).

My Foursquare Badges

For me, it wasn’t the cool badges I would win or the contest to be “Mayor”.  Rather, I was using the service to promote businesses I wanted to support; not necessarily frequent.  An added bonus – if my friends (who also checked-in via an LBS platform) happened to be in the neighborhood and wanted to come by to hang out with me, well then freakin’ fabulous!

I have been using Foursquare now for almost a year.  I even hold “Mayorships” at four different establishments and have gained eight badges.  Well, OK.

Recently, with the acquisition of my iPhone 3G, I downloaded the TriOut app — developed locally by super smart guy, Lawrence Ingraham, and marketed by friend & former colleague, Wayne Sutton— mainly so I could support their business.

As I mentioned previously, my purpose in using either service was to support local businesses.  Whether the establishment was a chain or a mom-and-pop, if I wanted to help drive traffic to their business, I would “check-in” and I didn’t see any harm in it.  Besides, I’d only check-in if I knew I was meeting people there.  I didn’t practice “checking-in” at the grocery store or the local Target either.  Again, I didn’t see the harm.

Then I read this incredibly…scary story by blogger Shea Sylvia detailing what happened to her after having checked-in for dinner with friends at one of her favorite restaurants.  Basically, one of her Foursquare “friends” phoned her at the restaurant.  Yeah.  Enough said.

As I read the entry, I really got to thinking.  Yes, I want to support my local businesses but do I really need to “check-in” to do that?  For you non-social media types, I know what you’re thinking, “No, Lisa, you don’t.” But, I am a social media geek.  Why shouldn’t I want to “check-in”?

I was at a conundrum.  I like supporting local businesses and yes, I like checking-in, but how do I mesh the two without something like that happening to me?

Then, a Tweet came through my Twitter @reply stream shortly thereafter.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember who it was or I would give credit but the gist of it was, “I practice ‘check-out’.  That way I still get to support the local business while being safe doing so.”

GREAT idea!  I started doing that.

Yet, even today, I wonder – does it make sense for a woman to be revealing where she is located even if she’s with a bunch of people.  Yes, there is safety in numbers but for some reason, it still kinda creeps me out.

So what have I decided to do?

Well, my accounts on both Foursquare & TriOut are still open.  I’ve accepted Foursquare “friends” (but only those I truly know or have been following on Twitter for quite some time & are local).  I’ve even checked-in on TriOut a few times in the last couple of weeks since reading that scary story.  Yet, I will say this – I’m not entirely convinced I can continue to support the LBS medium while maintaing my safety. So, my practice in the space has been severely limited.

And I’m perfectly OK with that.

What do you think?  Ladies…I especially would love to hear from you.  Are you using any LBS?  If so, which ones?  How often?  and Why?  Please comment below.  I’d love to write a follow up post to this one.



11 Responses to “Location Based Services – A Woman’s Perspective”
  1. Hunter says:

    Whew! I certainty agree Ashley B. that your privacy is your responsibility to a certain extent and the service’s responsibility to enable you with the right tools to feel comfortable. I probably didn’t explain my analogy very well, as I was not just talking about what you probably consider location-based services today (e.g. Foursquare, GoWalla, etc.)

    I think many people right now look at location-based services, like many viewed early social networks and still view them somewhat today as a voyeuristic annoucement of “Hey I’m here! Look how cool I am! I love this place! Try the burger!” That is what the mainstream LB services are right now.

    But, that is just a sampling of what location-based services are. That’s not the end goal of location. Location is going to be in the background of everything you do one day. That is my point of why we are going to have to “adapt” like we did with online transactions. It will still be our responsibility to determine to what extent we use these services, but it become mainstream in a lot of different ways.

    A few years from now, location is going to be used with your phone to make payments at stores. You will use your phone like a credit card. Location will be used when you scan a product and see what your friends said about a deal on an item at various locations.

    Location is so primitive right now, it is completely fair to have these strong feelings about announcing one’s presence. I work in this area for a company developing a product that uses location as way to track spending and your ToDo lists – only announcing when things get done to your immediate household with whom you chose to share information.

    I will say I work in this industry and you’ll never see me announcing where I am. I am all about creating utility with location-enabled services.


    • lasullivan says:

      Two words – QR Codes. Now add LBS. Yup! You’re right, Hunter. We ARE getting more technologically savvy as an everyday practice.

      On the one hand, it’s efficiently fabulous. If I can just whip out my cell phone, select the right app (or scan it even) to pay for a purchase, that’s freakin’ brilliant and so convenient. On the other, who’s watching what I do? With a credit card, it’s the CC company, the bank associated, and the merchant, never mind the data collected for other purposes. With the scanning of QR Codes or apps, then we’re opening up the door to a whole other sector. THAT kinda scares me. I can imagine the disclosure statement –

      “…you acknowledge that X credit co, X bank, X govt agency, X application developer, X _____, X _____, etc will be tracking your purchase history to make every effort to assist you with your purchasing needs going forward up to and including discount offers, one-day deals, and preferred percentage programs. You further acknowledge that your personal data will be used to determine the factors that influence purchasing for the consumer as a whole up to and including gender, demographic information, etc. In other words, you acknowledge that you surrender everything there is to know about you up to and including the name of your unborn child.”

      OK, maybe that last part is a stretch.

      Maybe I’m exaggerating but it’s not that far from the future, in my humble opinion. All I ask is for some control of privacy…some.

      Then again, Big Brother is already watching.

    • Ashley Sue says:

      Touche, Hunter. Great point and counter balance. As scary as it is, I know you are right about where it is headed, as well as how the concept is certainly in its infancy right now, and being currently utilized as such.

      Thank you for the elaboration. Gives a lot to ponder regarding the future of communication tech.

  2. deirdrereid says:

    I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I lived in urban neighborhoods (some nice, some sketchy) my entire adult life before moving here to NC, or because been in places, both in the US and abroad, where I’m lucky no harm came to me but I’m not too concerned. Famous last words. The benefits and good experiences I’ve had because of my sparse checking in so far have outweighed any concern I might have about safety.

    I only check into Foursquare when I’m feeling social — when I’m up for a impromptu meeting with another Foursquare (which really means Twitter) friend. I only send my check-ins to Twitter when I’m at a group event — sort of an implied invitation to come join us. I sometimes don’t check in until leaving because I often forget or I’m too distracted to check in upon arrival. I think that happened recently with the two of us — by the time I read your tweet about meeting up, I was on the other side of town already.

    Because I’ve checked in on Foursquare, I’ve met up with friends whom I didn’t expect to see, in coffee shops and stores, and twice in airports, once here and once in Atlanta — both of those airport meetups were with Twitter friends that I hadn’t yet met in real life. Very cool. The badges and mayorships don’t really matter much to me although I think they’re funny.

    I may eat these words, but I’m just not concerned about the safety issue. Maybe it’s because I live with a guy and a protective dog, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because of my past experiences flirting with danger, who knows. I’ve been scared, I’ve been mugged, I’ve been robbed. I just feel that there are other experiences that are more threatening to me than anything that could happen due to my Foursquare check-ins. So far, the benefits outweigh any perceived danger. Hopefully I won’t be proven wrong.

    • lasullivan says:

      Thank you, Deirdre, for your perspective as well.

      You and I are very similar having grown up & lived in places like Boston, DC, Houston, San Antonio, Orlando – much larger urban settings where the numbers for severe crimes are much higher than the area we currently call home – the Triangle. You are vigilant in the way in which you utilize LBS and it works for you. I, too, hope that you won’t be “eating your words” so to speak. 😉

      I think the bottom line is – to each their own. Some use extensively, some sporadically, and some not at all, for whatever our reasons may be.

      I like the medium. I do. I’m just waiting for someone to provide me a more secure opportunity (as secure as it can be anyway) in which to utilize it.

      Thinking I might try Facebook Places after all. If only my FB friends see my check-ins and I get the advantage of discounts, specials, & the occasional opportunity to meet up with friends, might be worth it! Might. 🙂

  3. M says:

    Lisa, still not sure why someone (although you focus on women) would want to advertise where you are. You expressed concern about someone tracking you down while you are out and that there are safety in numbers….. What about advertising that your not at home so burglars/thieves know you’re not home so they can break in to your home…… No feelings of security there…. For me anyways and I’m a male. I support businesses by patronizing them and telling friends by word of mouth if I like their products/services. For me the novelty, possibility of a friend finding me or supporting establishments does not outweigh my safety and security and that of my family. There are documented cases of people posting that they’d be away from home on facebook and “friends” breaking into their homes. Also on a last note, most people have similar weekly/daily habits/schedules, once you “advertise” yours, even if you stop posting, most may know that that’s all you’ve done…… Not post anymore….. But that you are still not home (or are somewhere particular). I would rethink using such a service.

    • lasullivan says:

      M…thanks for your comments and you bring up much of what I’ve thought about since I began using LBS myself.

      Social Media enthusiasts like myself love to utilize as many services as we possibly can. We tend to. So far us, it’s a no-brainer to be seen using any Location Based Service because that is our way of supporting local businesses. Safety & privacy is most certainly an issue or I wouldn’t have written this piece. And yes, I do talk from a woman’s perspective because well, I am woman. 🙂 Still, absolutely, men should be concerned too.

      It’s unfortunate that there are people out there that take advantage of ANY situation regardless of whether it has been formed online or off. Unfortunately, that is our reality & something that we will probably never be rid of in this life…at least in my humble opinion anyway. However, using any social media platform is a choice & while we all may not agree on why so-and-so is using it, the beautiful thing is we can also express our opinions too while (hopefully) respecting others as well.

      So…I truly thank you for taking the time to read and comment…from a male’s perspective as well. 😉

  4. Hunter says:


    You are right on with essentially the top fear of most when it comes to location-based networks. Frankly, it can be said of most “social” networks or online experiences you have today. Remember a time when most were fearful of entering credit card information when shopping online in the late 90s?

    Companies had to step up their privacy assurance and insurance then, and LBS companies have to do the same. Maybe it’s creating super secure mini-networks with only announcements to a trusted group (like your immediate family). Remains to be seen.

    Good article.

    Thanks for sharing,

    • lasullivan says:

      Oh my gosh, yes, Hunter, I definitely remember the late 90s shopping-online-with-my-credit-card-are-you-kidding-me days. Very good analogy there.

      I love the idea of “super secure mini-networks with only announcements to a trust group” idea and it wouldn’t surprise me if TriOut is already developing something of the like. (@Wayne – can you confirm?)

      Thanks for reading & commenting! 🙂

    • Honestly, I have to go with M above and say for me, it is a safety concern as a woman, out and about (no need to give everyone an update exactly where I am and when), and I personally think it is completely unfair to compare this to a fear of entering CC info on the web in the late 90s. While that was a valid concern then (and to an extent even now), I think that the logic there can be very skewed and shrugged off as “paranoid” and “illogical”, while feeling concern that I could be followed, attacked, or raped, is a very real, very always-present concern that will never, ever diminish, and *no* social network or site will ever have the responsibility to protect me from that with their privacy policies being revamped or new network gigs being created.

      It is always *my* responsibility to think to protect myself, as well as to think how my use of online tools or information I share can endanger me. Like M said, besides being able to be followed, I do not like that it says “my home is likely empty – feel free to stop on in and take some stuff – or wait for me to return”. I abandoned use of location-based networking last year, shortly after signing up. Since I quit, I actually know people who have had their homes broken into by this same way. There simply is NO benefit for me to use these services.

      Not even promoting my favorite businesses is a benefit. I tweet and FB constantly (like M said – word of mouth) about my favorite businesses and products, great service, and happy experiences. That says more than “@AshleySue justed checked in at @Helios”.

      I believe that the only people who benefit from location-based online networking are the businesses trying to utilize it to thank their loyal customers (@ThePitBBQ does a PHENOM job trying to make the service beneficial for their customers as well).

      Cheers to all,
      Ashley Sue

      • lasullivan says:

        WOW, Ashley Sue. If that isn’t expressing your opinion, then I don’t know what is. WHEW!

        First…thanks for reading & sharing your views. I always appreciate & look forward to what you have to say. 🙂

        You know…I toy with it because it is a safety issue. I fully recognize that. Your point about Tweeting & posting on Facebook your local love being word of mouth is so true too! You’ve given me a lot to think about.

        On the other hand, from a local standpoint, I do support the guys over at TriOut and I really wish them well with that endeavor. If I’m torn, it’s mostly because I’m trying to figure out a way to continue to support their efforts.

        As for the businesses being the only ones that benefit, I will disagree with you on that and that’s only because of what Facebook Places has accomplished (& I know TriOut is already doing it to an extent too). Just look at Jay Dolan’s (@JayDolan, @AntiMedia) piece on Social Media Today – http://www.socialmediatoday.com/jay-dolan/233879/foursquare-rest-peace. The benefits he received from using Facebook Places to shop at the mall are pretty genius. And if there is some enticement to use it like that while still maintaining some semblance of privacy (i.e. I still the like the example from Hunter above where he mentions a “select group” of friends/followers that you want to announce your location to), then it might actually work to everyone’s advantage.

        So….I don’t know. But for right now, like I said in my post, I’ve trimmed down from LBS use drastically…almost to a stop.

        Again, Ashley Sue, thank you! 🙂

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