Location based services online and your privacy

Privacy eh?  Its spoken about in the media how we should be careful what we share online, but it seems the general public, whether they are casual or regular dabblers in social media, including those who use IT at work, put their fingers in their ears and just say “La-la la la!”

Something that concerns me is Facebook now have this new feature where you can report where your current location.  This could be quite useful if you find a friend is actually only a few blocks away in a pub somewhere.

iPhone users have been doing this sometime now, with strange apps like Foursquare and Gowalla.  The rest of non-mobile web can see their Facebook/Twitter feeds filled up by spam posted with annoying things like “I just bcame mayor of XYZ pizzas & co.”  or “I am in my mansion”   The first one sounds like some kind of board game, with the user with portable device in the outside world, being a counter on a board like monopoly.  Putting links to a google maps of your house and when you are out of your house really isn’t very smart.

Teenagers make up a large proportion in Facebook of course and now I have seen a couple of young people do the same with posting maps of their homes.

Us IT people are quite likely to be targets given that the chances are we own a lot more technology in our homes, already there have been incidences of burglaries, where Facebook was used to scope out someone and when they were not in their house, we are talking not hackers, but any average thug who can use a browser who could have an anonymous Facebook profile, add you and make you his next target.

Long before social networking, about 7 years ago, a friend of mine with is own IT business he runs from home was the victim of a serious armed robbery in which was taken by two masked individuals in his own car, he had a sharp object put against his neck, maybe a knife but might of only been a screwdrivers, but had a lot of IT equipment taken from his house.   They drove him in his own car to a cashpoint and made him take money, and left him out in his own street, gone with car, IT stuff and cash.   I don’t know where they found out his address, but the chances of this kind of thing happening again I fear could be more frequent.

I use my Gmail profile to share pinpoints of locations both the UK and Israel.   You can have several sets of groups, the UK ones I used to share locations of the hospitals buildings I worked in Southampton, these were not available publicly only to some of rest of the team I worked with, this was not their IT dept’s official policy, its just something I used to make working easier especially as I was not familiar with Southampton and it meant finding and driving to sites easier.   The ones I have here in Israel I also keep private, just ocassionally share with friends when they want to come round and need to find my house.

I am all for sharing experiences of where I have been to and hearing from friends trips, but isn’t it time just to get sensible with how much we share?

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