While you were away… Everything Was Stolen

GPS location has intertwined itself into seemingly every app these days. All in the name of a better user experience. And for the most part, that’s true. My weather app needs it. Snapchat geo-filters need it. And it’s really entertaining to create my own location tags on Instagram. At what point, though, are we giving away too much information about where we are?

Professor Robinson showed us this video in class.

Jack Vale, the guy pranking the strangers in the video, was able to obtain all of that information from their social media profiles. Some of my classmates were a little skeptical as to how he was able to find these people and identify them.

Honestly, I don’t think it would be that hard. One way to find people would be to search Instagram with a simple hashtag like #SantaMonicaPier. Let’s say the first woman Vale approaches in the video just posted a photo of herself tanning with her friends on the beach and included #SantaMonicaPier. Vale could search that hashtag on Instagram, find the woman’s photo, and then walk up the beach until he finds where she is lying — all while scrolling through her photos to learn all the information he wants to know about her.

Vale could also post a photo himself and geo-tag the photo with his location at Santa Monica. Once the photo is posted, he could click on the location and find photos of others who have tagged photos in the same area.

I remember being annoyed when my Mom asked me to not post images or tweets while we were on vacation after I graduated high school. I wanted to share visuals about my experience with my friends on social media and didn’t give much thought to broadcasting that we were not at home. Think about an app like Foursquare, often linked to a user’s Twitter account, which is entirely based on location and encourages users to consistently share where they are at. It’d be pretty easy for someone who knows where you live to see that you’re not at your house at any given moment.

With this being said, I don’t think that it’s necessary to have your Twitter and Instagram private — social media is more fun when it’s open and easier to interact. But the video serves as a stark reminder that we have to be careful about how much information we are providing to the world.

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