Tuesday, October 26, 2010

do you know where you're going to?

south on the 97

and more importantly, who else knows where you are heading?

I've noticed an interesting stream of thought in my twitterverse recently relating to geolocation and social media, and it's not all "rah rah, jump on board". Much the opposite, it's sounding a note of caution and common sense especially for women. The app Foursquare is all about a bit of social media fun; you can play the game by announcing where you are in your locale ... and thus find new friends in the same neighbourhood. At the recent Social Media Camp held in Victoria, attendees were urged to sign in to Foursquare en masse to earn some kind of geolocatory accolade for biggest swarm. I did take a peek but didn't join in when I saw how intrusive a Foursquare account might be.

I've been aware of geotagging and similar since opening my flickr account. Any image you upload can be tagged with its point of origin - so far I've avoided doing this. Although my rough geographical location is available to any amateur internet sleuth, why make it any easier? A lot of my photographs are of home and family. In addition, I run an online business - people can find me if they dig. They can match locales with my images but I'm not going to hand them the shovel.

I've also noticed the privacy issues surrounding Facebook, and more recently Etsy (where sellers have been encouraged to sign off with their real names to "establish credibility and engender trust", regardless of how much anonymity they feel safe with). It seems that every account you open for whichever service online wants a piece of your www DNA ..... but did you know that these services are not shy about spreading it far and wide too?

The two tweets which piqued my interest directed me to reasons why people are deleting their Foursquare accounts. (side note: bleh! if someone can show me how to directly link to the actual tweets i'd be v grateful). Some don't think it adds value to their online experience, others worry about Facebook's new geolocator (which I am opting out of as fast as a guin can piss on the floor) but others (women), and this is what scares me most, have reported unpleasant creepy interactions with strangers who know both who they are, and where to find them. Not.nice (not sensible either).

On a slight tangent but still on the privacy kick, guess what happens when you link your smartphone up with your social media? It blew me away but suddenly I have the email addresses and phone numbers of everyone I am linked to Facebook. OK it's the same info as I can find on Facebook itself but suddenly it's there, mobile in my hand and on my phone. Am I the only person who finds this uncomfortable? If I post from my smartphone to a blog or wherever it can also broadcast my location with the entry. I can turn it off but I'm still getting my location broadcast randomly (and reassuringly wrongly too, about 15km away).

It's enough to make me not trust the technology. Now, I've spent my adult life trying to remember what my parents said about stranger danger - this new online social media world is a whole different piece of cake. Personal vulnerability can be broadcast to any number of observers at the click of a button, and with ease. I don't think it's sensible to make the job any easier for those who wish to do harm.

Interestingly, I'm becoming more aware of how fortunate my own exploration into this 'new' online world in advance of my son's immersion might be. A lot of parents I speak to have no idea how Facebook (the big bogey man) works, let alone twitter, 4SQ or whatever. With any luck I can stay ahead of the curve for a while and might be marginally more clued up than him; maybe for enough time to steer him into these uncharted waters safely.

Sooooo ..... is it only me having the nightmares about social media and children? or does using social media mean checking your common sense in at the door?

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