With power, comes responsibility. And, for a company that is currently tracking the whereabouts of 150 million Americans on the go, that responsibility is great.
Which is why Foursquare CEO says he takes consumer privacy deadly seriously.
“We’ve turned down millions of dollars of requests from customers who ask for something that violates our ethics guidelines,” says Glueck in this video interview with Beet.TV recorded at LUMA Partners’ Digital Media East conference.
The mobile location service recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. But today’s Foursquare is very different from the one which Dennis Crowley launched in to the world in 2009.
Whilst the old idea of consumers checking in and becoming the mayor of certain locations lives on in the company’s dedicated Swarm app, Foursquare these days sees itself as a provider of location-aware infrastructure to other businesses.
“If you were to type ‘Convene’, where we’re having this conference, into Uber, that’s Foursquare at work,” Glueck says. “If you were to tag a tweet from Convene on the 17th floor of this building on 3rd Avenue, you would be using Foursquare technology.”
And one key use of that data is marketing. Foursquare is making its services available to advertisers in three main ways:
- Insights on when customers who frequent retailers’ stores are also visiting those of competitors.
- Location-based media activation using “150 million US devices and the places they go”. Examples: “Find car shoppers or late night fast food junkies or fitness enthusiasts or moms who shop at Whole Foods and go to yoga.”
- Measurement: “We have a panel of about thirty million global devices that have opted in to 24/7 always-on awareness.” “We can create exposed and control groups that really match to measure whether that ad really drove incremental foot traffic into your auto dealer or into your restaurant.”
All of that power puts Foursquare in an interesting position – its whole existence is predicated on tracking the physical whereabouts of consumers in a society becoming increasingly concerned about tracking.
But Glueck says Foursquare has multiple measures in place to balance that marketing power with privacy.
He says Foursquare has adopted Europe’s GDPR in all its international operations, and believes the US should introduce similar legislation.
“We have an Ethics Committee that reviews all kinds of privacy safeguards that we’ve built in,” he says.
“There’s no PII (personally identifiable information) involved in those kind of aggregate analytics and everyone is entirely first-party and opt-in in our service. (We) entirely anonymize it and aggregate it.
“Location is so sensitive that users need to be in control. About half (of them) opt-in and about half don’t when you do the consent notifications properly.”