With the trend of location-based applications and location sharing via smartphones growing exponentially, businesses and users are becoming more and more connected with one another. But with this new technology, new security threats may arise. The more information you share about your location, the more you open yourself up to robbery and perhaps worse.
This location-based sharing trend does have some great benefits, such as connecting you with your friends and nearby businesses. For example, Twitter’s, Facebook’s, or Foursquare’s location sharing features let you “check in” and tell the world where you are. Besides being an alert or way to brag to your friends, the other cool aspect of the location sharing feature on Foursquare lets you can see who else is in the same place as you. Kind of like an impromptu meetup (or tweetup), you’re instantly connected to people who you may never have met.
Aside from the social aspect, businesses are also jumping on this trend. Many businesses are using check-ins as a way to track customers and even pass around specific deals. Seeing which bars and restaurants your friends are at, is basically the new digital word of mouth. Businesses love this feature as it just ends up bringing them more customers that might not have otherwise found the business or would never have tried it.
Some apps like Yelp also use the location feature, but for a different purpose. The idea is not to see your friends are at the moment, but to see how well the business is treating its customers, and allows the users to rate the business and leave a review. The idea behind using the location feature is to show that the person really does frequent the location they are reviewing and give their review more credibility. Besides just apps, even Facebook is jumping on the trend, with geotagged status updates.
So we get it, location-based sharing is huge. But what about our privacy? Sure, Twitter and Foursquare only allow your “friends” to see these location updates, but if you’re tweeting them publicly or on Facebook, all it takes is a visit to your Twitter feed to find out your exact location. When people take a vacation, it’s standard practice to make it look like they’re at home. For example, neighbors pick up our mail or we use an automated timer to turn the lights on and off, making it look like we’re at home.
Now if you are following the above steps to make it seem like you are home, but you’re “checking in” every few hours from another city, this may be a red flag for thieves.
There are many examples of criminals using Facebook and Twitter to find out whether you’re home or not, but now that almost everyone owns a smartphone and is using these apps, users have to wise up about their sharing practices.
Users have to be aware of just how much of their privacy they are giving up by constantly broadcasting to the world where they are and what they are doing. For example, “checking in” at home and making your home address public to everyone on your Twitter list or on Foursquare might not be something you want to do as it is basically an invitation to stalkers and criminals. Also if you are out late at night in a shady neighborhood, you wouldn’t want to broadcast that to the world as you never know who might be reading that tweet or check in.
The idea here is that with the benefits that location sharing applications give you, they also bring a huge threat with them. To make sure that you get the benefits of these apps while at the same time keeping your privacy, home, and yourself safe, make sure you are aware of what each tweet or check in is really telling the world.