University of North Texas
United States of America

Jordan Frith is an assistant professor at the University of North Texas. His research focuses on mobile technologies and social media, and he is the coauthor (with Adriana de Souza e Silva) of the book Mobile Interfaces in Public Spaces. He has published in journals such as Mobilities and Communication, Culture, and Critique.

Just a little location amongst friends: Examining the social privacy practices of Foursquare users

Location-based social networks (LBSNs) are mobile applications that enable individuals to form social networks through the application and then share their location with friends. In a way, LBSNs represent the convergence of online social networking sites and various forms of mobile communication, and they have gained in popularity as smartphone adoption has increased. However, these applications raise new privacy concerns, and Dourish and Bell argue that privacy is the central concern associated with the adoption and design of location-aware technologies. This study uses qualitative data drawn from thirty-six interviews to examine how individuals negotiate the privacy concerns of the most popular LBSN: Foursquare.

Privacy is a notoriously slippery concept. Far too often, designers and academics discuss privacy without defining it. In this presentation, I use boyd’s definition of privacy as the ability to exert control over social situations as my framework to examine my participants’ responses about their privacy practices. By examining actual user practices rather than discussing privacy in a general sense, I am able to show how Foursquare users who share their physical mobility with friends develop tactics to exert control when negotiating the new informational environment of location-sharing applications. Drawing from literature on both locational privacy and social networking site privacy, I argue the tactics my research participants develop are often closely related to the specific design of Foursquare. Through an examination of how privacy practices are closely linked with design, I argue that we need to encourage the design of location-based mobile applications that enable people to play an active role in sharing information, rather than a calmer, more passive ‘calm computing’ approach idealized in Weiser and Brown’s influential view of ubiquitous computing.