How Many People Know Where You Are?
Ok, so obviously this video is meant to be comical. But there is some truth in what he’s saying.
Ever heard of Please Rob Me? It’s an extremely simple website with just one purpose; to get people to think about the risks associated with sharing so much personal information online.
Here’s a brief excerpt from their website:
“[There is danger in] publicly telling people where you are. This is because it leaves one place you’re definitely not… home. So here we are; on one end we’re leaving lights on when we’re going on a holiday, and on the other we’re telling everybody on the internet we’re not home. It gets even worse if you have “friends” who want to colonize your house. That means they have to enter your address, to tell everyone where they are. Your address.. on the internet.. Now you know what to do when people reach for their phone as soon as they enter your home. That’s right, slap them across the face.”
The slap might be a bit extreme, but you get the point. Scarily enough, although “Please Rob Me” isn’t actually real, there are media platforms out there that use your information in similar ways. Girls Around Me was a mobile app launched in 2012 by a Russia based company named SMS Services O.o.o. that allowed users to search for women in their area, and get this, see where they were. The app would scan the area for women who had recently checked in on their Foursquare accounts, and then when a user found a woman they were interested in, it would connect them to her Facebook account where they could see her full name, profile picture, and could message her. Not to mention that it would provide the Girls Around Me user with the location where the woman had last checked in. And all of this would happen without the women’s knowledge or consent.
Thankfully, Girls Around Me was removed fairly quickly from the app store by Apple, most likely due largely to the fact that Foursquare blocked the app from getting access to their users information.
But there is still a massive amount of our personal information floating around out there on the web, and there are so many ways for others to access it. And even if a user deletes content from say, their Facebook page or Twitter feed, that doesn’t mean that it’s been removed from the internet. To an extent, we can protect ourselves by watching what we post, but the privacy concerns from social media users are growing.
What’s being done?
Many social media platforms and other companies, both upstarts and well-established, are now “trying to gain market advantage by casting themselves as more privacy-friendly than their rivals.”
A few of these companies are:
- Mozilla- They recently suggested that they would allow users to completely disable third-party tracking software.
- Apple- Last year they began requiring applications using their operating system to ask permission from users before tracking their location, etc.
- Snapchat- An upstart social media platform that has been taking off, which allows users to send pictures and short videos to friends. The pictures/videos sent auto-delete 10 seconds after being opened by the recipient, leaving no trail behind.
How do you feel about the lack of privacy involved with social media today? Do you think things will become more private as companies continue to try to meet consumer wants? Or do you think that as technology continues to evolve, it will only become harder and harder to keep information private?