By now, most people know what you say online can come back to hurt you, but one new site hopes to point out an even more subtle risk.
I Can Stalk U, a site that launched recently, has an up-to-the-minute feed that posts location information about random Twitter users. Anyone who visits the site can find out the street that Sean P. Dillon is currently on in Jersey City, N.J., for example, or where Maria Melee is currently vacationing in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The goal of the site is not actually to serve as a tool for people to stalk you, but rather to raise awareness about how much information you may be unintentionally sharing online. The users who pop up on I Can Stalk U have not openly posted their location on Twitter, nor have they signed up for services like FourSquare that let you check into a venue and broadcast where you are. All they did wrong was take a picture with their smartphone and post it to the social network.
“With the proliferation of smartphones that contain GPS locator technology inside, the cameras in these devices are already equipped with the specialized hardware to automatically add geolocation information to the pictures at the time they are taken,” the site explains.
In other words, if you take a picture of a tree in front of your house on your iPhone, that picture will be tagged with GPS technology to show that it was taken on your street and at your address. This much isn’t exactly a secret, but what users may not realize, as the site explains, is that “Anyone who has a copy [of the photo] can access this information.” So when you post it to a social network, someone else can download the picture and find out where you’ve been, and perhaps more dangerously, where you are at that very moment.
For those interested, the site offers a step-by-step guide for how to turn off this geotagging feature.
I Can Stalk U isn’t the first site to try and make people aware of just how much people can find out about you on social networks.
In February, another site called PleaseRobMe launched with the intention of warning people against posting updates about their location on Twitter. “The danger is publicly telling people where you are. This is because it leaves one place you’re definitely not … home,” the site said in its mission statement. The site has since shut down, claiming to be “satisfied with the attention” it received.
Other sites like Failbook collect status updates users publish to Facebook that may not reveal locations, but may reveal other sensitive information about your personal and professional life. In order to avoid popping up on one of these sites, the trick is simply to be aware of what you choose to divulge on social networks, because someone will certainly find it.
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