Check-Ins, Geo-Fences, And The Future Of Privacy
When it comes to geo-privacy there are two extremes. Foursquare makes you explicitly check into each place where you want to share your location. That is good for privacy—you only have yourself to blame if you broadcast your location from the strip club—but it makes using the application a bit of a chore. You have to remember to pull out your phone every time you enter a new place and look like a dork while you are checking in. It is also rude when you are at a bar or restaurant with friends and everyone (all the guys, usually) are looking down at their cell phones, but I digress.
On the other end of the spectrum is Google Latitude, which constantly broadcasts your location everywhere you go, but only to people you allow to see it and only at the level of detail you are comfortable with (by city or general neighborhood, for instance). Latitude is a set it and forget it model. This makes you look like less of a dork, but the problem is that you do forget it and you end up either broadcasting your location when you would rather not or, worse, you never have any reason to interact with the application.
Somewhere in between the concept of the explicit check-in and constant geo-tracking is the notion of geo-fences. The idea is that you would basically draw fences around neighborhoods or other locations from where you want to broadcast where you are and places where you don’t. So maybe anytime you travel a certain distance from your home or office, the geo-sharing could begin. This concept is easier said than done, but startups like SimpleGeo are working on making it possible.