“I Can Stalk U” – Raising Awareness About Inadvertent Information Sharing

As if PleaseRobMe.com wasn’t enough, icanstalku.com has also launched a website to take advantage of the geo location information that people inadvertently shares online, mainly focusing on Twitter tweets.

icanstalku.com presents a twitter feed on their front page with the title “What are people really saying in their tweets?” – instead of showing the actual tweets, they pull the geotagging information from uploaded pictures to services such as Twitpic and displays the address as the tweet.

Here’s an example:

CookieDoctor007: I am currently nearby Dellette, United States

The actual tweet reads:

Step 3 cookie making, pipe stiff royal icing border-doesn’t have to be super nice http://twitpic.com/271ulz

The picture linked to in that tweet was taken around Dellette, US. The GPS coordinates are inside the picture’s meta data, for the world to see.

Now, there’s two things to pay attention to when it comes to geotagging.

1) If the phone doesn’t have a GPS, GPS is turned off or the GPS failed to get a lock-on (like if you’re inside a building), the picture might be geotagged by triangulating cellphone towers and thus not give you an exact location (as is the case with the example above). This might not be a big problem since nobody will be able to tell exactly where you took the picture, but you might not want a stalker (if you have one) or a potential burglar to know that you’re now out of your house.

2) If the phone does have built-in GPS and it managed to get a proper lock-on, it will geotag the picture with your exact position, potentially down to only a few meters precision. This might be a bad idea if you publish a picture of your expensive home entertainment system or your fancy car, parked in your garage.

icanstalku.com is trying to raise awareness about inadvertent information sharing – such as uploading geotagged pictures.

If you want, you can go to your cellphone camera settings and disable geotagging completely, but you won’t be able to view the pictures later on in a GPS-enabled application. I’m so into geotagging that I manually do it to some of my pictures that I shoot with my Nikon D5000, just so that I can look them up on a map to see what pictures I took where – and so that I can remember in 20 years where I shot this and that picture. Luckily, my pocket camera, Sony HX5V, has a built-in GPS, so it takes care of everything all by itself – pretty much like mobile phone cameras does.

It’s also possible that whatever application you’re using to share your mobile pictures, will have a setting that removes geotagging information before uploading. Check it out and adjust the settings according to your needs.

Any questions, concerns or opinions? Feel free to leave a comment below. Don’t worry, your comments are not geotagged 🙂

7 thoughts on ““I Can Stalk U” – Raising Awareness About Inadvertent Information Sharing”

  1. Technology has a price, beyond that which you pay at the cashier. 🙂

    While the PROs of geotagging are cool, the CONs need cautious attention too. If I were an avid twitter user, I’d definitely need to know when and where to turn off the geotagging function of my camera or phone.

    A visit to icanstalku tells me there are still a lot of people who needs to know about this negative side of twittering.

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  6. I think that a lot of people don’t even realize how much information they are sharing. The other day I saw a message my Aunt posted that read something like “It’s 1st Child day, post the date that you became a mother and the childs name…” then she went on to post her sons name and birthday. I made a comment that she should add his social security number and drivers license number too.

    That may have been some mom that thought she had a good idea, or it may have been some identity thief phishing. I also hate when I see someone post “just checked into the movie theatre” because you just let everyone know you won’t be home for a few hours.


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