A few days ago I read a really good post about privacy in regards to foursquare and twitter. The guy is a genius, and really showed me more than I already knew about how dangerous foursquare could be. I also listened to him for a bit on Webmaster Radio yesterday talking about it. The chat room there gave me an idea for this post. We were joking around saying whoever breaks into a house should also check in to that house on foursquare. Funny to joke with, but as an avid foursquare user I thought, “Is it possible to be active and still maintain privacy? So I spent a few days scrubbing and testing my account and I’ve come up with some tips to be active and remain completely private.

1. Know the privacy settings provided

I’m amazed each and every time users on a social platform complain about the privacy settings. It’s as if they expect privacy right away. Foursquare does have privacy settings:

Not much there right? Well, it’s little stuff like this that can become a big problem quick. So if you are sure you know who is in you’re network on foursquare go ahead and select them all. If not, I’d get home owners insurance, though I doubt it covers stupidity.

2. Don’t sync your account with Twitter or Facebook

Facebook has enough issues with privacy already, so why make it worse? Even if you have it all set to private, you’ll then need to be sure that your friends on Facebook can be trusted. Same goes with your Twitter account, KNOW YOUR NETWORK. Again, seems simple but just accepting every friend request from people you don’t know is a mistake. With Twitter if you have your account set to locked not just anyone can follow you, you have to approve them. But if foursquare isn’t synced to it there isn’t a need to worry unless you’ve got your geo location placed in your profile.

3. Don’t share where you are checking in at

This is simple so I won’t spend a lot of time here, select ‘no’ don’t share and it’ll take you ‘off the radar’ to your friends on foursquare. You can still get mayorships and badges, BUT it will still appear in your ‘feed’ on your foursquare account. In which case I suggest the following point.

4. Don’t use your real name or photo

Even with setting everything to private, if someone searches for your name on foursquare it will show up. So to reduce this risk, don’t use your real name and I’d even say don’t use the same screen name you do on other online communities, i.e. Twitter. On the flip-side if you do share your checkin, use an alternate photo so those at the venue won’t know who you are and then make a note of the screen name to check out later. As a side note, don’t add your real address and phone number in your profile.

5. Don’t add your home address

As amazing as it is to be mayor of your own home, it doesn’t get you anything special. So if you HAVE to get that checkin do so without adding your home. See the following example:

Just search for your home, and click checkin here without adding it. There are no point associated with this type of checkin, but it’s a small price to pay for safety. And if you even consider it a ‘price to pay’ you need to stop using foursquare.