Why You Should Think Twice Before Turning On Twitter Geotagging

In: Twitter

20 Nov 2009

Twitter is on a roll this month!  As a matter of fact it has scored a Hat-Trick on new features.  First with the Twitter List , and then with the new Retweet, and the third by enabling Geotagging.

If you haven’t noticed yet, open your Twitter settings and you can find geotagging under Account -> Location section.

At the moment, this setting only affects the API, which means you won’t see any changes on Twitter.com.  But some 3rd party applications are already supporting it, including Seesmic Web, Foursquare, and a few others.


This location info, if turned on, will help a lot in segregating Tweets by geo-location.  For example, Twitter was already planning to use this to filter trending topics by user’s locality.  Third party apps could use this to show users who tweet near to your location, which is good for finding new followings.  Other example would be an online game based on location.  The possibilities are endless.

However, one important thing that you must consider before you tick that ‘Enable geotagging‘ box is, what implications would affect you and your tweeting by turning on this feature.  You know where I’m going, don’t you?  I’m talking about privacy.

You must again remember that, unless you make your account private, your Tweet, and all information that go with it, will be visible to everybody!  Indeed Twitter has updated its Privacy Policy to emphasis this important yet sometimes forgotten fact.

If you are not careful, this feature could become the Ultimate Stalker tool, not to mention a robber’s radar arsenal.  As a matter of fact, if you’re good in API programming (or have money to hire a programmer), you can built an application that all it does is monitoring people whereabouts and map it to Google Map.
That is quite scarry, and definitelyworth to ponder upon.

The thing is, I don’t really want to miss-out on the (geotagging) fun, but I also don’t want some stranger invading my house and stealing my stash when I’m not around (not that I have any valuables laying around mind. Well maybe my Star Wars novel collection).

What we really need, and this is my suggestion to Twitter, is an ad-hoc switch which we can turn on and off as we please whereever we are, without the need to go the setting on the web to change it.
What about a Tweet command code, i.e. if we tweet this special code, Twitter will change the setting for us automatically?
Or, maybe that’s just too complicated for Twitter to do.  Never say never.

Anyway, be sensible and be safe everybody!

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