Sharing too much with a smartphone?

Feb 1, 2011, 2:29 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

Are you the mayor of Starbucks? If you’re into social media, you’ll know that’s a reference to the location-sharing site Foursquare . If not you might wonder why anyone would share personal information about where they are at any given moment.

Location-based services can be a tricky part of social media. People voluntarily “check in” by telling people through their smartphones where they’re located – the Starbucks on Northeast 8th in Bellevue, Sea-Tac airport, working out at Olympic Athletic Club. If people choose to share their location, to help meet up with friends or to get incentives and discounts from businesses, that’s fine. A bigger concern is when you might be telling people your location, or giving them personal information, without realizing it.

“An example would be geotagged photographs,” says Brendon Lynch, Microsoft’s Chief Privacy Officer. He says while one out of 10 people use location-based apps, many of them don’t realize there’s a location associated with photos and other information they’re sharing.

ICanStalkUWhen you take an iPhone picture of your kids at home and put that on Flickr or Facebook, it includes location data that websites such as I Can Stalk U are happy to post.

That also happened with a website called Please Rob Me which looked for pictures of people on vacation, and posted addresses of homes that were likely vacant on line. Both websites say they’re trying to raise awareness about over-sharing. Please Rob Me believes it’s made its point, and recently stopped posting location information on unsuspecting homeowners.

Microsoft is pushing for something they call “privacy by design” where all new mobile devices have location sharing turned off as the default setting. You’d have to change the settings to enable location-based sharing. Many sites and apps work the other way, and default to making your information public unless you change the option. Twitter and Facebook, by policy, say their sites work to make the information you provide public

Here’s a step-by-step article on how to disable geotagging on your iPhone, Android or Blackberry. Find a 10 minute discussion of privacy issues with Microsoft’s CPO on my latest podcast here.

Lynch says while most parents know they need to teach their kids not to talk to strangers or accept a ride from a stranger, they don’t have conversations with them about protecting their privacy.

“This is the modern equivalent,” Lynch says, “except that it’s more challenging.”

AD: To learn more about protecting your teens as they use Facebook and other social media, click around the Social Shield website .

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Sharing too much with a smartphone?