Why Sharing Your Location on Social Media is a Bad Thing

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We don’t often think about our current location as sensitive information, but as you’ll see in this article, it can be very sensitive data that you should consider protecting as much as possible.

Social media has put us all literally in the public eye. Every time you post a picture or status update to Facebook, make a tweet, check-in to a location, etc, you are sharing your location with potentially a huge audience.

Why is this a bad thing? Let’s take a look at several reasons why sharing your current, future, or past location could be dangerous:

1. It Tells People Where You Are

When you post a status update, picture, etc, you are tagging your current location. This tells people where you are right now. Depending on your privacy settings, this information could potentially go out to millions of strangers. Even if you only have this information set to be shared with your “friends”, you can’t guarantee that this information won’t find its way to non-friends or total strangers.

How could strangers View Location information If Only Set to be Viewed by Friends?

This could happen in any number of scenarios, here are just a few of them:

  • One of your friends leaves their Facebook account logged in on a library, school computer lab PC, or other publicly shared computer. Someone else gets on that computer and instantly has access to your info since you are the friend of the logged in user.
  • Your friend leaves their phone unattended and it doesn’t have a passcode. It is stolen and the person who stole it opens the Facebook app and views your information
  • Your friend attaches to a malicious Wi-Fi hotspot that is masquerading as a legitimate hotspot at a local coffee shop (known as an Evil Twin Hotspot) set up by a hacker. Their computer is subsequently hacked and their Facebook account is compromised.

    There are countless other similar scenarios that could result in strangers seeing info that was only intended for friends. You should consider these possibilities before you share information regarding your location.

    2. It Tells People Where You Aren’t

    Not only does your status information tell somebody where you currently are, it also tells them where you aren’t. This information can be just as dangerous in the hands of criminals, here’s why:

    You are enjoying the first vacation you’ve had in years, you are thousands of miles away in the Bahamas and you want to brag about a fancy umbrella drink you just ordered,  so you post a picture of it to Facebook, Instagram, or some other site. Totally harmless, right? Wrong!

    If you are taking a picture and posting it on Facebook from thousands of miles away, you have just told potentially millions of strangers that you are not at home, which means that your home is potentially not occupied, and you’ve also let strangers know that you are at least 10 to 12 hours from returning home.

    Now all they need to do is rent a moving van and take whatever they want from your house. Check out our article on What Not to Post to Social Media While on Vacation and also read about How Criminals Can Case Your House Using Google Maps for details on how crooks know what gate is locked before they ever set foot on your property.

    3. It May Reveal Where Your Valuables Are Located

    When you take a picture with your Smartphone, you may not realize it, but you are also likely recording the exact GPS location of whatever you happen to be taking a picture of (geotag).

    How did this setting end up this way?  The answer: when you first set up your phone, you probably answered “yes” when your phone’s camera app asked you “would you like to record the location of pictures you take? (via a pop-up box). Once this setting was made, you never bothered to change it and ever since then, your phone has been recording location information in the metadata of every picture you take.

    Why could this be a bad thing? For starters, it further narrows down your location. While your status update gives your general location, your geotagged picture gives a much more precise location. How could criminals use this information? Say you posted a picture of something you’re selling on an online garage sale group on Facebook or another website, criminals now know the precise location of the valuable item you just posted by looking at the location data found in the metadata of the picture file.

    4. It May Reveal Information About Other People You Are With:

    We’ve learned a little bit about location privacy and why it’s important. You should also consider the safety of people who are with you when you snap that geotagged picture or when you tag them in a status update from a joint vacation. Tagging them puts them with you and is dangerous for the same reasons mentioned above.