Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Geolocation Apps and Social Networks Can Be a Dangerous Combo

/PRNewswire/ -- Geolocation, or identifying the geographic location of people via Internet-enabled devices, has spawned a new type of social networking--one that leading outlets like CNN and ZDNet say has relevant future business applications but dangerous capabilities. According to Edison Research, only 7 percent of Americans are aware of location-based social networks--which means awareness should start now before the trend grows in popularity.

Foursquare, one of the most popular social geolocation networks, has pushed sharing geo-location data mainstream, with Facebook and Twitter now offering geolocation options for updates. But is this new trend simply an open invitation to criminals? Foursquare acknowledges the problem on their blog saying that the question is a legitimate one that should include all methods of giving away one's location, such as posting about a vacation on Facebook or tweeting with "headed to" followed by a location on Twitter.

"Smartphones are more prevalent now, especially among preteens and teens, and social networks like Foursquare and Gowalla target that demographic by using geo-locational data as part of a game," said InternetSafety CTO Aaron Kenny. "Linking the game to social networks like Twitter--an easy integration--publicly displays the location of you or your child, representing a potentially dangerous and invasive privacy breach. It's clear that the sites want people to share their data, so it's up to individuals to make sure their use of these sites is safe."

Users of geolocation apps can follow a few basic tips to limit the amount of personal location data they share:

-- Monitor connected accounts - If your child has a Twitter page, make
sure that games like Foursquare and Gowalla aren't linked to it.
Twitter's feed runs over a public network and makes location-based
data available to prying eyes.
-- Educate Yourselves and Your Kids - Take time to learn the pitfalls of
sharing location-based data and explain to your kids why sharing
location-based privacy data is dangerous. Weighing the risks and
rewards that these services provide is a great start.
-- Know Your App - Be sure to check and double-check all settings in all
apps that broadcast geolocation data. These apps seek to make as much
information public as possible because it increases the visibility of
the app, and using the most popular social networks to do so helps the
app spread virally. The unwanted side effect is that the user's exact
location is made public to the world.

In addition to providing industry-leading web filtering products, InternetSafety.com seeks to spread awareness of potentially dangerous online interactions and activities. Visit www.internetsafety.com for more information.

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