Faking it on Foursquare: Beware of bogus beauties bearing spam

Foursquare fakes are being used to promote travel apps, and the tools to fight them are virtually nonexistent. Get ready for a GPS spamdemic.

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At least, that's how I think it works. Locish isn't available in the locations I've tried it in, and it's not clear to me whether the service has even officially launched yet. I signed up to be a local expert for San Francisco, which included forking over a fair amount of information about my interests and tastes, as well as submitting a sample restaurant recommendation for them to evaluate. I'm still waiting to find out if I've made the cut.

Here’s some of the things they wanted to know about me:

It's an intriguing concept, but clearly Locish won't fly until there's a critical mass of local experts on call in the biggest cities. Pretending to be Foursquare hotties and then spamming people with bogus "tips" to lure them to your app is entirely the wrong way to go about creating that. I also wouldn't recommend sharing personal info with any site that uses spam as a marketing tool.

To be clear: I have no proof that anyone at Locish is related in any way to the Foursquare spambooties. But given the Athens connections, let's just say I'm deeply curious. I've asked Locish to comment via its Twitter account and email; so far they have yet to respond.

Meanwhile I've learned a few interesting things about Foursquare. For example, while spamming is a clear violation of Foursquare's policies, I can find no rules prohibiting the use of fake names or multiple accounts. And unlike Facebook and Twitter, there's no easy way to report fake accounts and spambots. You can unfriend someone easily enough, but to report an abusive account you have to visit this link and fill out a form. I couldn't find that page anywhere on Foursquare's help center; I found it by accident via its Twitter support channel.

If Foursquare is going to make it this hard to report abuse, it's like giving spammers an engraved invitation. Location-based spam could quickly become an incredible annoyance, incredibly quickly. Give the scumbags any opening, and they will exploit it. You don't have to be a local expert to know that.

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