Connect with nearby friends without revealing your location to Big Brother

Screen shot of face2faceWeb services like Foursquare allow users to use their smart phone to "check-in" to stores and other venues as a means of sharing their life and location 24/7. Recently, in addition to sharing where you are, users have been able to earn discounts at stores based on the frequency of their visits. The discounts, and attempts at connecting, have given way to potential privacy concerns and has led one company to look for a better way to connect with nearby friends.

When it comes to privacy concerns, Foursquare users need look no further than Leo Hickman's creepy account in the Guardian titled, "How I became a Foursquare cyberstalker." Using only a smart phone, Hickman was able to track down the most used train station, recent shopping locations, profession and other information about Louise, a woman who had checked in to a location on Foursquare near him. While users can control some of their privacy settings within Foursquare to restrict access, if they are publishing information to a linked Facebook or Twitter account that is unprotected, the information is relatively easy to track down.

Another new location-based tool called Shopkick allows users to earn rewards by entering a retail store and allowing the retailer to track them aisle by aisle while in the store. Based on the amount of time spent in specific sections of the store, users earn "kickbucks" which can be redeemed for store credit. In this instance other shoppers can't see your location, but retailers can, which has led some to express privacy concerns, even though it is an opt-in service.

Face2Face, an app that works with your existing social networks, is trying to solve the privacy and security problems that surround sharing your location by dropping the check-ins for points and discounts to focus on what we all started using social networks for -- connecting with our friends.

Instead of sharing your current location with your all of your friends, and potentially the world, Face2Face allows you to share it only with friends and friends of friends who are close by. In a phone interview with WalletPop, Hameed Khan, CEO of Face2Face, explained that the idea is that the people close to you have a much higher interest in what you are doing than those in another city or state.

Take for instance the case of Ferris Bueller who, during his famous day off, may have wanted to connect with another school-skipping pal at the Cubs game. By checking into Foursquare he may have inadvertently alerted Principal Ed Rooney to his location, but with an app like Face2Face he could have been sure to connect with his loyal supporters at the game, art museum or while parading through downtown Chicago, safe in the knowledge that only his friends who were nearby would know he was nearby -- instead of home in bed.

Face2face is a free app for the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android but it is not a new social network; instead you connect your existing networks, like Facebook, to Face2Face. To connect with nearby friends they will need to download and install the app on their smart phones.

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