I have the privilege of traveling pretty regularly for work and pleasure, which means eating out a lot and getting to know new hotels, attractions, and other businesses. One way I like to keep track of where I’ve been and what I’ve done is “checking-in” to that location using the Foursquare app from my Android smartphone.
Plus, if I’m ever looking for a nice place to grab a cup of tea, I can read tips from other people on Foursquare who have checked-in before me to see if I really want to visit this cafe. Best yet, I now have a mini-journal to remind me of great restaurants, hotels, and shops I visited, if and when my friends or I ever visit that city again.
The amount of adults who check-in has more than doubled from last year as 75% of adults now use their phone to get real-time location-based information on their smartphones. There are dozens of geo-social apps that allow you to surf for tips and reviews of local businesses and check-in to them, like Foursquare, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp!, Trip Advisor , Facebook.
They track your location using the GPS feature on your smartphone and share it with “friends” online. These apps are a fun and helpful way to experience any city or location and let people know where you are. But it is important for geo-social app users to understand the social and security ramifications of checking-in. If you’re not careful, the wrong people can find you when you don’t want them to, or learn personal information about you, putting your personal identity and safety in danger.
Foursquare forced a potentially dangerous stalking app off the Apple App Store earlier this year called, “Girls All Around Me.” This app notified the user what women (and men) were nearby; who they were, their relationship status, what school they went to, along with other profile information, and exact location. The app gathered Foursquare check-in information from users who made their social media profiles and location public. Users were shown a map of the “girls” near them who had recently checked-in.
Earlier this summer, a woman was raising money and driving awareness to fight cancer by kayaking solo around Lake Michigan, blogging about her cause and location as she went. A man she didn’t know followed her location online, tracked her down in real life, and sexually assaulted her. This is a horrifying and worst case scenario of the dangers of making your location public. But it’s important, especially as a woman traveling alone, to be thoughtful with whom and how you share your location.
Identify Fraud & Theft
Nearly 12 million people are affected by identity fraud each year, and those with a Facebook page and smartphones are at a 33% greater risk for becoming a victim than the general public. Cybercriminals are hot-to-trot to steal your identity so they can get their hands on your banking and credit card accounts and more. The information we share online makes us a target; like our kids’ names (potential passwords), who our family members are (capture mother’s maiden name for password reminders), and when we’re not home (rob me, please).
One third of Facebook users set no privacy settings at all, which means anybody including cybercriminal can see all of their photos, personal information, and who their friends and families are. And frighteningly enough, half of those users didn’t even realize there were any privacy settings to use!
I’m not going to get rid of my Facebook profile or Smartphone and you shouldn’t have to either. There are things we can do to protect our identity and location. Let me help you not become a statistic.
Here is how I try to stay safe using geo-social apps:
- I make my Facebook profile private and unsearchable. I do that by using the Facebook Privacy Scanner feature within Trend Micro™ Titanium™ Security solutions. It helps me identify who can see what on my profile. I simply click the “test my privacy settings” button that appears on the top of my Facebook home page to see if there are any privacy concerns I should know about
- I don’t let people check-me in without my (electronic) permission on Facebook. Facebook privacy settings give us this choice on whether or not you want people to know where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing
- I don’t check friends in with me (like on Facebook) unless they give me permission to do so. Don’t assume people like to be as public about their location as you do
- I have an anonymous profile, name, and photo on Foursquare. When I check-in to a restaurant by myself, anybody else with Foursquare can see I have checked in, but they won’t be able to find me by my picture or name, and I like it that way. My check-ins are just for me
- I don’t let Foursquare automatically post my check-in on Facebook. You can use Facebook to check-in, or use another dozen or so geo-social apps to check in at your location – and those apps always give you the choice of also checking in on Facebook or even Twitter. Make sure you know which apps are double checking you in and set privacy settings accordingly
- I don’t tell everybody when my home is empty. Only close friends and family I trust can see my Facebook posts and Foursquare check-ins
- I don’t show my “relationships” on Facebook. Reconsider showing who your mother, siblings, cousins, etc. are within Facebook. If you set your privacy settings, but you husband didn’t, cybercriminals can still learn a lot about you
- I check to see which apps could potentially steal my information. How? I use Trend Micro™ Mobile Security Personal Edition on my Android Smartphone. Its Privacy Scanner warns me of apps that secretly collect and steal my private information
I work for Trend Micro and the opinions expressed here are my own.