| Sunday December 21st 2014

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ICanStalkU twitterbot nags Twitter users about disclosing their location


ICanStalkU is a twitterbot Twitter-analyzing servicethat seeks out Twitter users who transmit their location in the photos they tweet and generates responses like “ICanStalkU was able to stalk @XXXXXXXX at http://maps.google.com/?q=35.5371666667,139.510166667,” with the stated purpose of “Raising awareness about inadvertent information sharing.”

icanstalku?I generally like the idea of helping people understand that their software may be disclosing information about themselves that they’re not aware of, but I find this method a little tiresome. On a few occasions, I’ve deliberately turned on location data when sending out an image (for example, when tweeting an image of a public event or artwork and wanting to conveniently attach a location to the tweet so others can find it) only to get chided (not by bots, but by other Twitter users) who sent words to the effect of, “Some privacy advocate you are! Why are you sending location data with your images?”


I’ve also been nagged by someone’s twitterbot that wanted to tell me off for including my email address in a tweet, because the author had decided that this would make me more vulnerable to spam (I have one email address and it’s been public for about 15 years now — there’s no spambot that doesn’t know it by now). It’s nice that people want to help others understand the wider context of their actions, but there’s a fine line between helping and nagging.

Adding location data to a photo of something in public — a protest, a spectacle, a store — isn’t necessarily a privacy breach. Nor does it necessarily give information about the photographer’s location (photographers might choose to post the images later, long after they’ve left that location). And location metadata on photos can be very useful. It would be great to see more nuance from ICanStalkU.

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