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The Dangers of Geolocation February 17, 2010

Posted by pupfiction in Uncategorized.
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Mashable has read my mind again – or rather, I should say, Pleaserobme.com, has read my mind. Over the weekend my Dad pointed out that I had posted his vacation days on his [Facebook] wall, and that this could be dangerous. I pointed out to him that Facebook could be private, given the right settings. But he made a good point, one I have thought about time after time when I look at my Foursquare app and decide not to use it. The same goes for declining Twitter’s geotagging options. When and why did we ever decide we should tell the public at large where we are at any given time? The idea goes against everything we have been taught to do–leaving a TV on so that people think you are home, keeping location secret on dating sites, and, more generally, enjoying a thing called privacy. These sites are just another step in the annihilation of privacy. My paranoid-“down with the man” side sets off alarm bells every time I see (and use my own) GPS enabled devices, knowing that this is just one more way for people to know exactly where I am. Sure 911, Onstar, and other services use these tracking technologies to save lives, but what about Federal agencies using telecommunication records to find criminals? No one would argue that law enforcers should not have access to cell phone records, including geolocation data, with a warrant. But CNET reported less than a week ago that, “the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ in their–or at least their cell phones’–whereabouts.” Really? Says who? If the government has a reason to look at my records, then go ahead, but if not, I’ll hold onto the last vestiges of privacy, thank you very much.

But enough about the government, Pleaserobme.com, has brought a very important problem to light–the dangers of revealing your location to an online audience. The site compiles posts from Foursquare and calls them “opportunities” (meaning opportunities for you to rob them). It will be interesting to see if this site, which is gaining a lot of attention on Twitter, will be the demise of Foursquare (which has recently been dubbed “the next Twitter”), or if people will continue to blithely post their whereabouts. What do you think?

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Comments»

1. nexttolastblog - February 17, 2010

A shift in our society has occurred the past few years. We have gone from fearing the security of the internet to anything/everything goes, your nobody unless everything about you is transparent. There is little to no digital hygiene that is of any concern with many of the nets younger users. This is all they have known since High School, so it must be safe, secure, and no problem. I don’t know where this all nets out for privacy and society. Caution is still necessary, storage is unlimited and cheap and everything is connected.

2. dataduchess - February 17, 2010

No surprises to our regular readers if I point out that this is definitely one of my fears. I love the idea of Foursquare (Turning cities into gameboards? Where do I sign up?) BUT – for some reason, I have always been super-paranoid about my personal safety, and I wouldn’t dream of posting that “I’m not home right now” any sooner than I would publish my ATM pin code. Foursquare might not become “the next Twitter” since it is much more limited in its potential uses, and I imagine there are a lot of people like us who won’t use it. However, I don’t think the loss of privacy will be a deterrent to those users who welcome the opportunity for yet another avenue to broadcast every detail of their lives. (For proof: see the astounding number of Facebook users who have NOT set their privacy settings).

3. Ernie Falconer Sr - February 17, 2010

I am glad that you agree with me in a roundabout kind of way. When I was younger criminals would look at the obits( back then they posted the address of the deceased) and during visting hours they would rob the deceased house.I now will be more careful with my privacy settings.One final item your GPS or ONSTAR or your cell phone may save your life.Ez-pass is another way they know where you are.

4. Julia - February 17, 2010

I have to wonder–how many potential criminals are that technologically advanced? I guess in large cities there is more potential for that type of thing, but I have an image (stereotypical and probably wrong to an extent) of foursquare users being young, more likely to live in apartments, and less profitable to rob. Although my stereotype does include them owning an unusually high amount of high-tech gadgets.

5. pupfiction - February 17, 2010

I don’t know how tech savvy petty criminals are but the article by Mashable pointed to some crimes that were already committed this way.

6. dataduchess - February 17, 2010

And then there’s sites like PleaseRobMe making it easier for the criminals.


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