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Privacy App Pinpoints Your Exact Location Using Social Media


A view of how the privacy app Ready or Not works.

Researchers warn users of social media that their posts can be used to "cybercase" their homes.

Credit: Ready or Not

Researchers at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) and the University of California, Berkeley say many people are unaware that metadata accompanying social media posts can be used to "cybercase" their homes.

"You post a little tweet, which is just a couple characters, but in reality there's so much other data you're also posting," says ICSI's Gerald Friedland, who also is a lecturer at Berkeley. "Time, plus geolocation, can uniquely identify you."

In August, researchers at ICSI and Berkeley presented findings on a hidden network of vendors who sell Twitter accounts, email addresses, and IP addresses.

Using a U.S. National Science Foundation grant, the researchers also developed a privacy app called Ready or Not that creates a heat map of 30 days' worth of geographic coordinates taken from a user's Twitter or Instagram account; there are plans to integrate other social networks. The grant also helped furnish a website on social media privacy.

Friedland notes that although the privacy project is targeted at high school students, parents also could benefit from it. "Sometimes parents might panic a little too much or not care, but we want to make sure people make an informed choice about their privacy settings," he says.

From Fast Company
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