Foursquare Starts To Enforce The Rules, Cracks Down On Fake Check-Ins

Foursquare fans, you’re going to have to start earning your badges and mayorships the hard way: by actually visiting the places you’re checking into. The red-hot location game has announced that it is implementing a “cheater code” that checks your phone’s GPS signal to determine if you’re actually where you say you are. You’ll still be able to check in wherever you want, but you’ll only be rewarded with badges and points if Foursquare can verify your location.

The move has been a long time coming. Foursquare cheating, which we’ve discussed before, has been around since the service launched. Until recently it didn’t really matter — you might claim a mayorship or two, but they weren’t worth anything so nobody cared. But now that some venues are actually starting to offer discounts and promotions to mayors, these rewards are about more than just bragging rights.

Here’s how Foursquare is describing the system in its post:

What we’d like to do is award points, mayorships and badges only when you’re at the place you say you’re at. Last week we started using a few different tricks using your phone’s GPS to try to verify this. (and if your phone doesn’t use GPS, we use a few different tricks)

Now, we’re never going to NOT let you check-in – you can checkin wherever you want, whenever you want – the idea is simply to not award points, mayorships, badges or venue specials if it looks like you didn’t really earn them.

So why didn’t Foursquare roll out a more restrictive model long ago? The company wanted to avoid the issues its competitor Gowalla has run into: namely, that phone GPS systems aren’t always that accurate (or even working indoors), which could prevent people from checking in at places there were actually at. That kind of false negative is extremely frustrating for users. Foursquare’s compromise is to only attempt to verify your location when it comes to rewarding points and badges — you’ll always be able to tell your friends where you are.