Location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla are all the rage; even Facebook has its own version, called Facebook Places. While such services can be fun, there are numerous underlying risks.
Frank Groeneveld, Barry Borsboom, and Boy van Amstel created the site PleaseRobMe.com to spread awareness of a very serious issue. Their site used Twitter’s search function to display the addresses of people who weren’t home – all based on easily accessible public information.
Once they proved their point, the site was shut down. But the issue remains – people need to be wary of their locational privacy. So how can you use these services while still protecting yourself and others?
- Never check-in at home. You don’t want people easily knowing when you’re not home, so leave this location off your list. Besides, you don’t want most strangers to know where you live in the first place.
- Never check-in at a friend’s or family member’s home. Updating your status with “Hanging out at Mike’s” might seem like casual fun, but you’re essentially compromising their privacy as if you’d checked in at home.
- Don’t link to Twitter. Unlike Facebook, which requires you to be a friend with someone for them to see your updates, Twitter feeds are usually public (although you can set your feed to private as well).
- Want to really keep yourself and your family safe? Don’t check in. Period.