Posts Tagged ‘Location’

Twitter’s Location field and your privacy

Twitter has a wonderful Location: field, and a lot of clients, like TwitterFon (for the iPhone), or twibble (for Symbian devices), tend to update the field automatically. They tend to update it with the phone’s built-in AGPS, so at worst, your accuracy in location, is about 100m or so. Location on Twitter

I find this to be a tiny problem. You can copy the location string (GPS coordinates), paste it into Google Maps and find out that the person at the Location above, is at MidValley Megamall.

Who cares when you’re in a public location? That can be a good thing for bumping into friends. But what about stalkers who now know where you live? Or an angry wife, that knows you weren’t working late, but chilling out with the guys at a nearby pub?

This is where Google Latitude kind of makes sense. Its opt-in. You only share the location with your friends. Twitter is just open (very rarely, do people’s profiles remain private).

Anyway, I thought it would be cool to write a quick Greasemonkey script to send me to Google Maps automagically. After all, Dive Into Greasemonkey still applies… Quick search on, and I found Twitter Google Maps Link. It does exactly what I want, so I didn’t need to hack up some JavaScript. Win :)

The Internet era, exposing information, then getting death threats

Today, I found out Michael Arrington of TechCrunch fame got spat on, but worse, he had death threats against him and his family previously (consequently, he will take a break during February to re-focus). It reminded me of what happened with Kathy Sierra, a while back, which made her stop blogging. Then it reminded me of the events of 2002, in where someone did the same thing to me.

When you’re public facing, and on the Internet, you tend to have a lot of your information spewed online. Social networking sites, and the constant need for you to share with others, helps drive the fact that any stalker can find information about you easily. Some even get their iPhone’s to update the Location field in Twitter automatically (wait, I think twibble on the Nokia phones does that too). We’re geotagging photos. Dopplr or TripIt tells others where you are planning to go – so this problem can also be cross-border.

We’re slowly giving up our privacy, to some extent. And we’re allowing malicious folk to know intimate details of our lives. Details that we wouldn’t mind sharing with a friend, but details that can be used to cause attacks, or even identity theft.

So, my question is: is this an online-only phenomena? I mean, journalists in traditional media do the same thing. OK, they have journalistic integrity, and the editors have strict guidelines to ensure that what is in print, isn’t drivel. Rumours tend not to be published, and everything is fact backed. Blogs tend to lack that, sometimes. Its harder to pinpoint and contact an individual journalist – you’ll just be getting to the editor. In a world where everyone can have the potential to be a journalist, without the integrity of one, is leaving yourself vulnerable online a good thing?

From a personal perspective, my incident about seven years ago hasn’t taught me much. I don’t paste my home address with GPS co-ordinates online anymore on my site – instead I use a PO BOX. But on social networking sites like Facebook, my friends get to see more details. With other people tagging photos of me, you even one even gets to see where I’m hanging out. And when I’m bored, I might tweet where I might be. And with geotagging, co-ordinates start showing up (especially if you have Location Tagger running automatically on the Nokia E71).

How do you deal with potential threats? Do you even think of it? Have you been threatened before?

Here’s hoping Mike has a good break and comes back blogging even stronger. Don’t give up!

Flickr, and a GPS enabled camera phone

I have always been excited about location based services. I’ve found it daft that its taken so long to get a camera integrated with a GPS chip for this amount of time, considering how cheaply available GPS chips are.

Yes, its taken a while for me to go the GPS-phone route… Nokia has had a bunch for a year-18 months already I’m sure (their Navigator phones, the N95, etc.), but for me it all came with the E71 purchase.

I like photos. Its quite natural, that I like Flickr. Its also nice to know that EXIF has so many unused fields, that you can embed location data. Flickr takes the embedded location data and then pairs it with a map. Just look at the following photo of a garden.

The garden

The meta information includes Latitude, Longitude, Altitude, as well as GPS Time/GPS Date. The Time/Date fields seem inaccurate (or non-parsed), but the Latitude, Longitude and possibly the Altitude are very correct.

Unfortunately, when I click “map”, I am disappointed. “We’re sorry, the data you have requested is unavailable. Please zoom out to see more map information or refresh your browser to try again” is the sad message I see. Yahoo! Maps doesn’t work too well… but…. Google Maps does! I enter the latitude/longitude combination, and it shows me street level accuracy. In fact, the phone’s GPS picked up the data almost as accurately as a device from Garmin did.

Flickr (and by this I mean, Yahoo!) should tear down the walled garden, and allow people to let the “map” link point to Google Maps.

How does all this work?
In Flickr, make sure you allow it to Import EXIF location data.

On the E71, I installed Nokia Location Tagger. I run this application, allow it to auto-hide, and the camera does its thing. The only way I know Location Tagger is running, is when taking a photo, has a significant lag, as the GPS data is being written. This software can start in the background – just make sure you have a fairly sensible data plan.

I upload images either via Share Online (direct to Flickr from the camera) or via transferring the images to my laptop and then uploading them. The way it gets to Flickr is immaterial – the location data is embedded in the EXIF tags.

Other thoughts
Some say this is a violation of one’s privacy. Because now, people may know where you live, and stalkers may show up. Sure.

I’ve seen examples of this on Picasa (which integrates with Google Maps, and is cool), but I haven’t used the service myself.

Searching for Creative Commons photos, by location, can be a really useful technology for stock photography. Might this disrupt the industry? Might this help, enhance the industry for someone who harnesses it?