I Know Where you Checked in Last Summer

July 16, 2013

It’s summer, that time of year where we go on vacation, take lots of pictures — and, of course, upload them to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And because we want people to know where we are taking this beautiful picture of the fabulous time we’re having, we also like to ‘check in’ at various locations, or to tag the geographic locations in the pictures we took, right down to the exact address of the restaurant or hotel we’re at right that moment.


But next time you’re about to click ‘share’ on your mobile device, be aware that there are many risks to notifying your many friends and followers of where you are and what you’re doing.

  1. The first risk with sharing this geolocational information is that it may not just be accessible to people you know and trust. If you have your Instagram or Foursquare accounts linked to your Twitter account to simultaneously cross-post your announcements, then everyone who is on Twitter can see this and know exactly where you are — remember, Twitter is a public arena where anyone can follow and/or read the tweets of anyone else. That includes potential burglars.
    Only use services that share your information with a small and closed circle of friends.
  2. Which brings us to the next point — if you’re at the beach, you’re not at your home. Would-be burglars with Twitter accounts can deduce that, and from there it isn’t a huge step to figure out where you live, especially if you’ve ever tweeted the geolocational coordinates of your home address, or have otherwise been careless about sharing information, perhaps on Facebook, that makes it easy to figure out where you live. Also, the White Pages didn’t die, they moved online and are highly searchable.
  3. Putting your home and valuables at risk is one thing, but putting children in danger is obviously a much graver threat. But kids who check in or share their geolocational information when they take pictures of themselves and their friends at the pool, the mall or even at home on a lazy summer afternoon else and then post them Instagram or Twitter are potentially exposing up-to-the-minute information on their whereabouts to a sea of online predators.

That doesn’t mean you and your kids shouldn’t use these popular apps, but you have to be cautious about how you do it. First, only use services that share your information with a small and closed circle of friends. Second, never use the gelocational functionalities of apps like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and don’t link your Foursquare account to your Twitter account. De-activate them if they’re already activated. Finally, if you have children, talk to them about how to use these apps stress to them the dangers of sharing any personal information, but especially their location, through social media.