Privacy is a freedom we give ourselves.
It is spring break. Facebook is full of my friends saying where they are (with their whole families), and it looks like most of them are posting publicly. Someone could easily look at the Camilla, Georgia and publicly see who is out of town.
Location Based Girl-Finding App Uses FourSquare and Facebook
Girls Around Me, the app that used Foursquare and Facebook location data to reveal the whereabouts of girls located around a person, had people upset. It is now pulled from the iTunes store after losing Foursquare API access. The Russian-based developer told the Wall Street Journal that:
“Girls Around Me does not provide any data that is unavailable to the user when he uses his or her social network account, nor does it reveal any data that users did not share with others.”
Is Sharing Your Location a Big Deal?
The fact is that girls and adults ARE sharing this information. Websites like pleaserobme have tried to point this out for some time. (Amid criticism pleaserobme creates awareness about whose homes are abandoned via the location-enabled Tweets by owners disclosing their absence.)
A Wired News reporter determined where a woman lived by watching her take pictures in the park. By noticing the kind of camera, he used the location feature in Flickr and the camera model to find her and locate her apartment through other photos on the account.
Google is now forcing people to use real names, which makes stalking even easier. This person makes an excellent point about Google forcing her to use her real name or suspend her services by April 4. Companies like Google want to make sure we’re a real person, but we live in a world where 1 in 20 women will be stalked in their lifetime. I am one of those women. This is important to me that other women not live in that kind of fear.
When I see people posting things like:
“We’re so happy to be gone to the beach for a week” along with the location -or-“The mountains are so pretty! Our dogs are at the vet. Ah, a week alone in the mountains! I don’t want to go home.”
I cringe when I see these are PUBLIC updates on Facebook that anyone can see.
|When you share your updates, perhaps you should create a list of close friends you trust to share your location based updates.|
Tip #1: Create an intimate list if you want to share location based information.
I would suggest that you create a list of close friends (who genuinely are close) or just family members to share these geotagged updates.
Tip #2: Look closely at how you link other platforms.
Privacy settings do not transfer between platforms. The updates you send from Foursquare, Twitter, TripIt, or Yelp to Facebook may override your Facebook privacy settings. I admit that I don’t honestly have a firm handle on this one yet. For example, I’ve decided to use Foursquare when I’m traveling to check into airports and meet up with friends or to get deals at certain locations. Meanwhile, I’m researching my privacy settings for each as part of writing this post.
Tip #3: NEVER check into or create a location for your home, hotel room, or other private locations.
You are giving the latitude and longitude of your home – where you live – to anyone who is your friend.
Tip #4: Turn off geotagging on photos (and check your child’s cell phone) unless you intentionally decide geotagging is for you.
I don’t want my photos geotagged. A geotag is a tiny piece of data with the latitude and longitude of the photo’s location. Many parents don’t realize that their children’s cell phones often default to turn on geotagging. When a child takes a photo with a geotag and shares it anywhere electronically, they have just compromised their own safety.
By 2012 (that is now), all cell phones in the US are required to have geolocation for E911 purposes. Because most cell phones have cameras, the geotagging is available. I think that the use of geotagging on children’s photos should be disclosed to parents. As of right now, it is likely that most parents don’t know if it is on or off.
Remember that apps like Google Picasa can add Geotags to a photo AFTER it is taken (by adding the photos on a Google map, for example.) Educating everyone about geotagging is paramount for this reason.
Tip #5: Carefully vet your friends
If you don’t know someone, YOU DON’T KNOW THEM. Why would you friend them? I stopped friending people on Facebook I don’t know and created a fan page instead. This also means I need to go back and unfriend those I don’t know. This is such a hard one because on Foursquare it is tempting to friend the “friends of friends.”
Don’t trust your friends to vet your friends.
I had 2 sets of students do an experiment last year for their Digiteen project. They created two fake profiles. One was for a “cute’ girl with a real picture, and another was for a random young man with an avatar. The girl had over 500 friends after 3 weeks. Although students admitted that they didn’t know the girl that she didn’t go to our small school, they said, “so many people had friended her, I just thought it was OK.” Only one student “called her out” and we quickly reached out to him to make him a confederate. It was part of an awareness of “watch who you friend” that the students wanted to do. All an evildoer has to do is have a picture of a cute young lady and enlist a few confederates.
Go back through your friends and check what you are doing. Separate them into lists if necessary. Create a “not sure” list and give them limited viewing rights to your Facebook.
Tip #6: Carefully look at your settings
Check your privacy settings everywhere you share. Some of the most popular geolocating services and information on their privacy settings are:
- Foursquare Privacy 101 and Foursquare privacy grid.
- Facebook Privacy Settings or Facebook’s Family Safety center also has a place for Teachers. (Their recommendations on making groups for classes sounds reasonable, however, the last time I checked, you can’t make a group unless you FRIEND your students first. See concerns about this in Facebook Friending 101 for Schools.)
- Tripit – I love this program for organizing trips. I NEVER use it to share my details unless it is with family members or the conferences where I’m speaking. It is a leading travel app but not suitable for updating details on other networks in my opinion.
- A Flickr safety guide including an excellent screencast about Geotagging is great for shutterbugs.
- Picasa geotagging – I cannot find complete information on the safety concerns of Picasa and also the relationship with Google Places. This one is different in that you can put it on a map and add geotags after the photo is taken, which means you can turn off geotagging but then have the data added back in by someone in your group. Their facial recognition feature is powerful, but also one to note.
- Twitter Guidelines and Tweet with Your Location Feature.
- If you are a runner and using GPS enabled services like MapMyRun, Runkeeper, or other GPS enabled app.
Tip #7: Be careful about revealing patterns in your behavior
Tip #8: Don’t Geotag photos including children
Tip #9: Educate
Fear isn’t the answer
Photo credit: Big Stock
- Wiki How: How to Avoid the Potential Pitfalls of Geotagging (including how to turn off on cell phones)
- Geotagging (are you putting your safety at risk via smartphone)
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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