Everyone loves social networking, and whether it’s twitter (we’re @adrianflux), facebook, or one of the other myriad social sites out there we are becoming a nation obsessed with the connectivity that the web 2.0 era has brought us.
But there are hidden dangers, and a Dutch student, called Barry Borsbroom, has recently highlighted the dangers of Geotagging your social posts.
Geotagging is where you allow your phone, computer or other device to share your current location with the web service using GPS, allowing your friends, and others to pinpoint where you are at any moment in time. While many applications are relatively benign, and companies as big as Google have jumped on the bandwagon with Latitude, there are circumstances in which this information can be used for less than savoury purposes.
Barry’s site is called PleaseRobMe, and he has created it using feeds from the popular third party Twitter ‘game’ FourSquare, where players accumulate points by tweeting locations that they are visiting and finding locations tagged by other players. No, I don’t get what the point of that is either, but grown men and women are doing this.
What Barry realised is that players, having set a ‘home’ location have given you all the information you need in order to rob them, including the data on where they are now, and how far from home they are. Some are clearly on extended vacations, based on their location updates. Not only that, but a browse through past Tweets will invariably yield useful info about their domestic situation, and lifestyle – all helpful to career burglars.
And with tools like Google Streetview available too, the crims could even ‘case the joint’ virtually.
So always think twice before sharing information online, otherwise you could get a nasty surprise when you get back home to find your home ransacked. Not only that, but, assuming you have home contents insurance (and you really, really should) you’ll be paying increased premiums for years to come.
There’s no need to be unduly worried, but you should always consider who gets access to the data you are sharing. Google isn’t going to rob you, your friends probably aren’t either. But making personal data public could well be a game of Russian Roulette.