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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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High Tech Realm: Inviting the Creepers In

Today, nobody seems to care that about being tracked.

The majority of people carry cell phones with them at all times, which, at any point, can be used by the government – with or without a warrant – to track your location. Now that I’ve gotten my obligatory government conspiracy and tin-foil hat alert out of the way, there’s another enemy to worry about – yourself.

Yes, you need to keep an eye on yourself to make sure you’re not posting your whereabouts on the Internet, or at the least, use discretion when publicly displaying information. Now, I’m not going to restate the standard message about not sharing too much information on social networks. Rather, the focus is now on location based social networks which allow you to broadcast your location via your phones GPS device, mobile site, or text message.

For some time now, sites such as Foursquare and Twitter have gained popularity mainly because of their ability to show friends where you are, to encourage meeting up. Although Twitter does not currently have a mobile application to tie in GPS integration, third party applications such as UberTwitter and TweetDeck allow for the addition of locations to your tweets.

In particular, Foursquare is a service that awards various amounts of points based on “checking in” to different locations with additional points awarded for users who frequently visit new places more often. The site also offers badges and virtual awards assigned based on various conditions, but those are outside the scope of this article.

Twitter by now should be self explanatory. If not, Tweet me @charlescosta and I will either respond with a helpful remark, or something random. Either way, watch what you say, because tweets on Twitter are public – more about this in a minute.

While tweets and other content containing your current location are technically among hundreds of thousands, if not millions of tweets and other content, a new site called PleaseRobMe.com sifts through the noise of the Internet and displays Tweets and other content containing locations, calling the most recent messages “New Opportunities,” as in opportunity for a robbery since in theory their home will be empty.

The site also doesn’t employ any fancy technical code that a 3-year-old couldn’t. As mentioned in a linked page on PleaseRobMe.com, simply go to twitter.com/search and type “4sq -@foursquare” without the quotes, into the search bar. Simply put, that command searches Twitter for posts related to Foursquare and showcases them in a handy list conveniently sorted from newest to oldest tweets.

While the practicality of the site is questionable, as a determined criminal can easily drive around to scope for targets, it provides an interesting example of how public the information posted on the Internet can be.

The makers of PleaseRobMe.com state throughout their site that it is by no means intended to encourage robberies. Rather, they cite the concern over people sharing their location on public areas. In particular ,however, they mentioned issues of how it’s not good when your friends tag your home address as a location on Foursquare.

Although Foursquare and Twitter support integration between the two, Foursquare alone is not at issue for privacy as they provide the option for you to only share your locations with friends you mutually select. The issue is with their Twitter integration, if enabled, because of the previously mentioned privacy issues.

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