by Al Sacco

Check It: One in Ten Adults Check-In on Foursquare, LBS?

May 11, 20122 mins
MobileSmall and Medium BusinessSmartphones

Roughly one in five adult smartphone users "check-in" on location-bases services (LBS), including the popular foursquare location-sharing site, and one in ten adults use LBS, according to a new report.'s Al Sacco thinks those numbers are dubious. Here's why.

I’m a big fan of foursquare. I love the silly badges. I like knowing where my friends are hanging out, even if they’re in different cities. But I especially love the record foursquare keeps of my all check-ins, so I can look back and see where I ate the last time I visited New York, for example, or the name of that fantastic Belgian beer bar in San Francisco.


I know the popularity of location-based services (LBS) like foursquare have been growing for the past couple of years, but if some new data from The Pew Internet and America Life Project is to be trusted, that popularity is growing much faster than I thought.

Today, nearly one in five adult smartphone owners “check-in” on LBS services like foursquare (18 percent, to be specific), and one in ten adults use LBS, according to Pew. Those numbers are up from 12 percent and 4 percent, respectively, over the last time Pew released similar survey results in May 2011.

That sure would be a lot of check-ins. Despite Pew’s generally-positive reputation, I can’t help but doubt the numbers’ accuracy, based on my own experience—and the fact that Pew used responses from just 2,253 adults over the age of 18 to represent all smartphone users and all adults. Considering the U.S. population today is more than 310 million, and at least half of that number is represented by adults, the number 2,300, is less than 0.000015 percent of the population. (Read more about Pew’s methodology on the group’s website.)

Also, I have two very specific groups of friends and acquaintances: 1) The Tech Savvy folks, who I know through work or I met on the Internet, etc; and 2) The Regular People. While many of the Tech Savvy folks use or have used an LBS service, the vast majority of The Regular People scoff at the idea of sharing their locations. Many don’t even know what LBS is. Quite of few of The Tech Savvy folks also purposely stay away from LBS. Pew’s report encompasses any and all geolocation services, such as Facebook’s location features, and not just standalone services like foursquare. But I’m still skeptical.

Honestly, I wish more people would use foursquare and services like it; however, for many, the associated privacy risks outweigh the potential gains.

For more on foursquare, read my foursquare etiquette tips and read “Foursquare, AmEx Let Credit Card Users ‘Checkin’ and Save.”