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Is There a 'Hardly Anyone Uses Foursquare' Badge?

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, September 7 2011

Americans are still tuned out from the check-in.

A study released yesterday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that a paltry seven percent of all adults have their phones set to automatically tag their location to posts from services like Facebook and Twitter. Among smartphone owners, only 12 percent use check-in services like Foursquare or Gowalla — but a full 55 percent of people with smartphones use them to get location-based directions and recommendations, according to the survey. Put another way, more than a quarter of all American adults use location-based services generally, ranging from location-aware Google Maps to Yelp.

People of color and higher-income people are more likely to use so-called "geosocial" services — again, that means badgefests like Foursquare — but white people are more likely to get directions and recommendations, the study found. The study also found that younger people were more likely to use all of those services.

“Americans are not currently all that eager to share explicitly their location on social media sites, but they are taking advantage of their phones’ geolocation capabilities in other ways,” said Kathryn Zickuhr, Pew Internet Project research specialist and co-author of the report, in a press release. “Smartphone owners are using their phones to get fast access to location-relevant information on-the-go.”

It wouldn't be correct to suggest that increased use of services like Foursquare necessarily tracks with unsophisticated notions of privacy. Previous Pew research shows that young adults are more likely than others to track their reputation online, modify their privacy settings on social networks to limit what becomes public, and delete unwanted comments on their online posts — but there don't seem to be any numbers out there that explicitly connect notions of privacy with how willing people are to become pins on a map.

While poverty and unemployment are more prevalent among people of color in the U.S., smartphone and new service adoption figures among those groups usually tracks alongside those of high-income people. In a follow-up email, Zickuhr explained that this could be a function of how small a part of the country's low-income population minority groups really are.

"A minority group like Hispanics does not represent a large enough group to strongly influence the overall smartphone adoption rate among lower income households, even if that minority group has a lower median income as a whole," she said in the email. "Additionally, many lower income Americans are 1) older and 2) rural, both groups with very low adoption rates, which drive down the overall adoption rates for lower income groups."

This post has been updated.

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