2010
07.15

Need Some Privacy?

I’ll admit that sometimes aspects of technology give me the creeps. In particular, I’m uneasy about geolocation tools that can identify and broadcast my location via social media. By nature a private person, I don’t particularly thrill to the idea of my whereabouts being shared with others, even my online “friends” or “connections.”

Apparently I’m not alone. Internet-security firm Webroot did a survey of smartphone users, and found that many of them are concerned about the privacy risks of sharing location data. Yet that fear isn’t necessarily stopping them from sharing.

Webroot found 55% of people who used geolocation tools are worried about their loss of privacy, and 45% are very concerned about letting potential burglars know when they’re not at home. Women are more worried than men, with 49% saying they are highly concerned about letting a stalker know where they are, versus only 32% of men.

However, 29% of users admitted to sharing their geolocation with people other than their friends, and one in nine said they had used a location-based tool to meet a stranger, either digitally or in person.

There seems to be a disconnect between people’s fears and what they are actually doing. I grant there are many benefits to sharing location, such as meeting friends, playing games, earning rewards, and staying connected in a world where we are increasingly isolated from each other. I see the value of broadcasting my location to my social media networks, but for me, the risks generally outweigh the rewards.

But there are ways to make sharing location data safer, and it often involves using some common sense. Webroot says people need to make sure their personal information is only shared with their real friends and to never accept friend requests from people they don’t know. Perhaps all geolocation users just need a refresher course in Stranger Danger.

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