I Know Where You Were Last Evening – Is Location Privacy Threatened?

Let’s face it. Our life is a play, the world is the stage, and each of us considers ourselves the lead actor in the play. So no wonder we want to keep the world updated on what we are doing and where. Continuously. Consequently, the  development of technology  enables us to do just that-tell our friends where we are. The thing is that our exact locations are sometimes recorded without us being aware of it. So is our locational privacy at threat?

What is locational privacy? Locational privacy is the ability of an individual to move in public space with the expectation that under normal circumstances their location will not be systematically and secretly recorded for later use.

Most of us love our privacy and do not want others to know of our activities. But there is no escape these days from devices and services that keep track of our movements and us. These include the fairly common ones like:

a) Swiping credit/debit cards
b) Swiping door entry cards
c) CCTV in hotels/ATMs/Banks/Traffic junctions
d) Cellphones
e) Wi-Fi services that are offered for free
f) Swipe cards at toll booths/metro stations

OK, now you are worried. You didn’t realize did you, that so many services were keeping track of your movements? Anyone can use this information to chart out your daily routine. However, you can’t avoid these, unless you stay put at home.

So I wonder why people willingly join “Foursquare,” “Facebook Places” or keep their Blackberry or other GPRS-enabled services active! I advise them to check out this site to see how they are practically inviting burglaries and/or other felonies.

The other day a friend tweeted, “Holidaying in Singapore with family; amazing city,” with the location of the hotel shown on a small map. All her followers immediately knew that she was away, ergo her house was empty. Did she really want everyone to know the fact or only her close friends? Or take the case of Sumit who met up with friends after work, pleading fever as an excuse to leave work early. His boss searched for him in Foursquare and found him to be at H2O instead! Not a desirable situation to be caught in surely.

I suggest you turn off the “add Location” feature on Twitter and Facebook and switch off your current location on your smartphones so as not to publicize your location.

Recently mashable identified the top 5 location based services (LBS) and Foursquare topped the list.

Don’t get me wrong. LBS do have their uses, like to track cabs, contact fishermen out in the sea, fleet management etc. Parents can also use the GPS enabled devices to keep track of kids when they go out alone, or of caretakers under whose care they leave kids at home. But I would not recommend you use it yourself extensively. Remember, you don’t know everyone you interact with online. So safety comes first, always.