Amidst growing concern at the consumer level about data privacy and location tracking, Foursquare has shifted its business model to a much more "data analysis" focus. An apt description that has been given to outline what that means is that the company has created a "Google Analytics" for location data. Foursquare Analytics, according to CEO Jeff Glueck, allows more traditional physical shopping locales – such as restaurants or retailers – to work out "how their own company and entire category are performing."
As a means to accomplish that end, Foursquare Analytics program provides real-world location data from users, which the company calls "foot traffic." The data itself is pulled from a variety of applications – in addition to the Foursquare app itself – including apps that utilize the company's Places database. Some of those other apps are pretty pervasive in the mobile world, including over 100 thousand applications such as SnapChat and Twitter. The collected location data is compiled and normalized to reflect the U.S. population before it is analyzed alongside other pertinent data being captured, including purchase history, user's ages, and more. All of that data is, in turn, crunched to provide more than just the number of visits to a particular store. Business customers of the analytics system can see which products consumers purchase more of, by what percentages, and which age groups are more likely to buy something. Alongside relevant foot-traffic, businesses can adjust how they are operating to provide better services, advertisements, and products to a more targeted audience.
Foursquare says security surrounding the data itself is fairly robust. For starters, users of any application from which data is collected must have chosen to allow granular location data to be collected. Many applications in question collect that data if the more accurate location services for the application are turned on within the application settings. Perhaps thankfully, depending on how you view personal data collection, Android also provides other controls for permissions built into the OS itself as an added layer of protection. However, all of that data is "aggregated and anonymized" on a monthly basis, according to the company. While that may not be enough for every user's comfort, analytics have traditionally resulted in a better shopping experience overall. So it might not be so bad after all if Foursquare handles everything appropriately.