Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Fine Line Between Clever and .... Stupid

OK, so the actual quote by David St. Hubbins in the movie Spinal Tap is "It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever. "  Now that I have addressed the hard core Spinal Tap fans :-)

What I am referring to is a security issue that some people don't even think about.  The social networking sites and activities are extremely popular as we all know.  Millions of people are on facebook, twitter, myspace, LinkedIn, Flickr, or insert your favorite site here.  Everyone likes to share in in an open way.  

The problem is that the average user either does not know know or has not taken the time to think through some of these seemingly innocuous actions.  For example, you are on vacation and keep sending out tweets on what a great time you are having with a bunch of long time friends. You have turned on geotagging on your twitter account because you feel it adds to the personal nature of your tweets.   You think, what's the big deal, geotagging simply means you add your location to your tweets by automatically using the location feature built into your smart phone.

Now, before you think that websites should do a better job of warning the user - many already do. If you check out the warning on geotagging, it is very clear, for example, just one part of the twitter site states:

When using Tweet With Your Location, please keep in mind:
Your exact location will be stored with your Tweets, and your exact location or place information may be publicly displayed based on your application settings.
Once you post your location, it’s public. Even if you delete it later, it can remain in third-party applications or other external sources, like search results.

twitter makes it very clear.  Twitter makes it extremely clear and shows exactly how your tweets will appear with your location.  This is also an "opt in" decision, so the default is to not have geotagging turned on.  However, this does not mean that the user reads the warning, nor that the user understands the warning.  This is not twitter's fault.  This is not the users fault, but it is just a fact of life with new technology.

To show how this information can be used in ways that most users would not not suspect, you only have go to a site call 

When you go to, it has a very succinct message:

Geotagging is a fun way to show burglars when your not at home.  Think before you geotag really drives home the point that you need to think about the possible secondary and tertiary affects when you make social networking decisions.