Safe Geotagging with Twitter; How to Do It and What Are the Dangers

October 21, 2010, By Christian Cawley

Are you a vociferous Twitterer? Do you have a mobile Twitter app that you use at all times of the day, one that allows you to post instant updates and share your thoughts and observations, links and photos with the world?

So why not tell the world where you are at the same time?

Thanks to a new feature introduced in 2009, you can now geotag Twitter posts. This means that for every update you make to your Twitter account, a small link is added to the message – anyone following your Tweets can then click the link and display a Google Map of where in the world you were when you made the last Tweet. All you need to do this is a mobile device or tablet with GPS.

It sounds fascinating, and is of course another great example of Web 2.0 integration between different services.

However, geotagging also has its risks. Why would you want anyone to know at all times where you were?

Setting Up Geotagging

The easiest way to activate geotagging on your Twitter posts is to login to the browser-based version and under the What’s happening? box, click the Add your location link – however this is on a tweet-by-tweet basis.

More detailed control over this option can be gained via the Settings screen – under the section called Tweet Location you can activate the function across all tweets.

If you’re interested in tweeting from hilltops and beaches from your mobile device, you will need to be aware of how your individual mobile app works in order to effectively manage geotagging. Once setup on the main Twitter page it should occur automatically. For instance I use Twidroyd, the Twitter client for Android, and in the settings screen this has an option to Add Geolocation by default. Any mobile Twitter app worth its salt installed on a mobile with GPS should have a similar feature.

Alternatively, you don’t want to keep geotagging information on your Twitter account (see below for reasons why) this can be done using the delete all location information option, found in the Tweet location section.

Dangers of Geotagging Twitter Posts

If you haven’t realised already, there is a particular danger in geotagging your Twitter posts – you open yourself to all sorts of problems, notably your personal security. While there is a strong argument for having GPS information attached to every post if you happen to be out along somewhere – perhaps fell walking or mountaineering – there is an equally strong argument against it.

For instance, it would be a relatively simple task for a local criminal to check for Twitter accounts in your area, see who uses geotagging and work out where they live by checking their displayed location during the night. As soon as GPS updates the victim’s location, the criminals can be looting property.

Similarly, your personal security might be compromised if you’re tweeting from a busy area – using the same tools as above thieves and gangs could easily target you and your mobile for a quick mugging, even taking with them personal details and opening you to identity theft.

So geotag safely, people.

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