Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

You May Have Forgotten Foursquare, But It Didn’t Forget You

Paris Martineau, Wired:

Ask someone about Foursquare and they’ll probably think of the once-hyped social media company, known for gamifying mobile check-ins and giving recommendations. But the Foursquare of today is a location-data giant. During an interview with NBC in November, the company’s CEO, Jeff Glueck, said that only Facebook and Google rival Foursquare in terms of location-data precision.

You might think you don’t use Foursquare, but chances are you do. Foursquare’s technology powers the geofilters in Snapchat, tagged tweets on Twitter; it’s in Uber, Apple Maps, Airbnb, WeChat, and Samsung phones, to name a few. (Condé Nast Traveler, owned by the same parent company as WIRED, relies on Foursquare data.)

In 2014, Foursquare launched Pilgrim, a piece of code that passively tracks where your phone goes using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, and GSM to identify the coffee shop or park or Thai restaurant you’re visiting, then feeds that data to its partner apps to send you, say, an offer for a 10 percent off coupon if you leave a review for the restaurant. Today, Pilgrim and the company’s Places API are an integral part of tens of thousands of apps, sites, and interfaces. As Foursquare’s website says, “If it tells you where, it’s probably built on Foursquare.”

I’m sure many apps and services from the earliest days of the App Store are dead now, but I wonder what happened to the ones that aren’t. In either case, I wonder what happened to stored user data — particularly private and personally-identifiable details. Was all of it securely wiped from servers, in the case of a company shuttering? What kind of highly-private data is still lingering on servers and development machines worldwide that has simply been forgotten about by users who have moved on to other apps and services?