The increase in use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter means that individuals are putting vast amounts of information about themselves online. However, the latest trends for geotagging photos and videos, and participating in social networking games which reveal the player's real world location means that individuals are disclosing information which could, in fact, put themselves and their homes at risk.
Geotagging is the process of adding data to photos and videos regarding location and time, i.e. if you take a photograph and post it online, anyone viewing the photo will be able to see exactly where and when the photograph was taken. Whilst some individuals are aware that they are revealing such information, others are not. For example, Apple's iphone has a default setting which automatically attaches this information to photographs and videos. Therefore, you may have a situation where a friend takes a photo at your house, then later uploads it online without you or them realising that your home address has been disclosed.
Revealing your real time location has also been turned into a game called FourSquare - accessed using your mobile phone - where you check in and win points based on your real world location, i.e. you could check in at your house, your local pub, your local supermarket. The more you check-in the more points you win. Your friends and other players will receive updates via Twitter informing them where you are. Similar games include Gowalla, Brightkite and Google's Latitude service, with other companies hoping to jump on the trend shortly.
The website 'PleaseRobMe' was created in an attempt to draw attention to the dangers of sharing too much information online regarding your location (also see 'ICanStalkU'). The site used information which was publicly available online via sites such as Twitter to find out homes that were currently empty. For example, if you check-in at the pub, you are clearly not at home, or if you upload a holiday video, it may reveal that you are currently in Spain and therefore not at home. The site has ceased operating at present due to allegations that it was encouraging burglars; however, the creators of the website claimed that this was not their intention and they only wished to emphasise the fact that "on one end we're leaving the lights on when we're going on holiday and on the other we're telling everybody on the internet we're not home".
Revealing your location online whether via geotagging photos or videos, posting comments on Facebook, or participating in games such as FourSquare means that you are leaving a digital trail of your whereabouts for others to see. From the information available online, for some people, it is possible to find out where they live, where they are at any given moment and even their daily routine.
Whilst the development in technology is certainly impressive, if you do not wish to suffer the negative consequences of posting information online, think carefully about the information you are disclosing and the dangers of doing so.