Is Publicly Sharing Your Location Creepy? This App Thinks So
You might want to file this under the “perhaps this was obvious, but we needed another app to show us” category, but if you check in, Tweet your location and otherwise publicly broadcast your GPS coordinates for all the world to see on the Internet, other people can see where you are.
Creepy is a desktop app for Windows and Linux and it’s a stalker’s dream come true. The big question, though, is should you stop sharing? And is it really all that creepy?
Last year, all the talk was about PleaseRobMe, a website that simply showed where people were checked in. It did nothing more than a Twitter search for the Foursquare domain, but it brought to attention the idea that whenever you publicly broadcast your location, you also publicly broadcast your absence from home. You know, the place with the valuables.
Creepy takes this idea a step further. It takes a couple minutes to gather all the data – which it searches for according to Twitter or Flickr username – before showing a very detailed map of every Tweet, check-in and geo-tagged picture that person has posted to the Internet for months on end. And depending on how a particular piece of information was sent, such as from a smartphone with an accurate GPS signal, the results can be, well…creepy. We’re talking “Yep, I was next to that oak tree in the park when I took that picture” creepy.
So, should you stop broadcasting your location? I vote no. (And not because I want to stalk you, I swear.) I share my location all the time and for a number of reasons. It enables random and serendipitous connections to occur. I can look back and have all sorts of contextual information as I weave my way through the world. I can plug it all in to services like MemoLane and get a time-ordered snapshot of my own life, as I share it online. And in turn, it gets fed through algorithms and stuffed into features like Foursquare’s latest recommendation service, which looks at where I’ve been and suggests where I may want to go next. And that’s just the first step for what can be done with all of this location information.
I also get second hand value from all this public location sharing. I see people’s check-ins on Twitter and can figure out that the coffee shop down the street is the place to be. Tweets can help with a host of scenarios, from public health issues to mysterious explosions in Portland.
Of course, I may be a bit overzealous in my location sharing. It’s on, by default, for everything – pictures, check-in services (which are public) and Tweets. Go ahead – download Creepy and enter @rwwmike and you’ll see my recent trips to Palm Springs, CA and Austin, TX. You’ll see my bike ride across town to Golden Gate Park. You’ll see snapshots of food and beer and bikes.
This isn’t for everyone. If you have bad relationships with your exes or lawyers coming after you for bills, you might not want to live so publicly. And are we that far off from insurance companies gathering check-in information and using it to calculate your premiums? But that’s what Creepy is about, right? It’s saying “Look, you’re sharing your life on the Internet and really, everyone can see.” The question is, do you care? (And perhaps, far more importantly, should you care?)
Creepy is available for Windows and Linux with a Mac version on the way.