Online Privacy vs. Convenience and Communication

The latest trend in social media is “Location Aware” services whether it be Twitter, Facebook or the latest up and coming site, Foursquare. I’m an avid user of Foursquare, checking in mostly at public locations like restaurants, coffee shops and taverns but also at our office and even on my deck (one of my favorite places to be).

Seems pretty cool to let people know where you are, doesn’t it? Sometimes you might be bragging, “Waiting for roller coaster at DisneyWorld” and sometimes a bit more mundane, “Coffee at Starbucks with Tom”. But even letting your circle know that you’re talking to Tom might be a signal that the project is on, that the relationship has been solidified or even that you and Tom are an item again.

Emarketer’s report on Privacy and Geolocation shows that men and young people are much more likely to use location based media. It is a trade off. To have the convenience of sharing with friends (so they can join you or envy you or make decisions about where to go for the evening) you have to give up some privacy.

I read a very interesting article today in the Guardian on Foursquare and Cyberstalking. What can I say but understand the risks as you engage in location based media? You can also check out SafetyWeb.com, a site dedicated to helping parents keep their kids safe online. This is a fee for service site but they focus on keeping people safe and, for example, offered the tip of checking in on location-based social media AS YOU ARE LEAVING instead of when you arrive.

In any case, be aware that when you share your location, more than just your friends might be watching.

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