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Too much information

I wonder how many social media users have ever considered how much of their personal location information they reveal unintentionally in posts and comments? The odd location-infused post may not be any cause for alarm, but over a period of time, interested third parties can harvest this information to build up a profile of location habits and preferences that can be exploited for targeted ad campaigns or more malicious activities such as stalking and robbery.

USC Dornsife GIST master’s student Chris Weidemann has investigated how much location information is shared, intentionally or otherwise, by Twitter users (Mapping the Twitterverse). Approximately 6% of all Twitter users pro-actively allow the social media platform to share their location information, with users able to specify the granularity of that information (state, city, address or coordinates). Although the remaining 94% of users have elected not to GPS-enable their tweets, a great deal of location data can still be gleaned from profile information and references to past, current or future locations. Weidemann has developed an application that allows users to generate a report on their geosocial footprint. The report includes an assessment of the level of risk posed by the amount of spatial information in their tweets along with some suggestions for reducing that risk.

There are other tools available including Ready or Not, developed by International Computer Science Institute, to alert Twitter and Instagram users to the potential risk many are exposing themselves to. As social media users become more aware of the potential for misuse of their personal location information, perhaps the social media applications themselves will include some of these options for highlighting the risk before the tweet/image/comment is posted.

  1. Sarah Wagstaff
    October 17, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    To Whom It May Concern,

    I find your work here very interesting, since researching this topic, it appears a lot of work was done in this same area of research by yourself.

    I am a final year degree student at the University of Brighton, currently working on my undergraduate dissertation. I am particularly interested in using GIS (Geographical Information System) approaches to map spatially-referenced data on twitter feeds. I am keen to look for both spatial and temporal patterns in twitter behaviour and use (regionally, nationally and perhaps internationally).

    I wondered whether you would be able to advise me on any open source data that may be available. I am keen to get data that shows times , dates and geo-location information (so I can spatially reference the information). Hopefully you may be able to help me or perhaps direct me towards a contact who may be able to assist me further with this query?

    Thank you for your assistance in this matter,

    Sarah Wagstaff
    BSc Geography (Hons) Course
    University of Brighton.
    School of Environment & Technology
    Cockcroft Building
    Brighton, BN2 4GJ

    • Jill Clark
      October 18, 2013 at 8:57 am

      Hi Sarah,

      I haven’t come across a dedicated open source of Twitter data. There are many examples of resources created through innovative use of
      Twitter APIs but not sure that is what you are after?.

      Have you come across this reference? Spatial, temporal, and socioeconomic patterns in the use of Twitter and Flickr
      Spatial, temporal, and socioeconomic patterns in the use of Twitter and Flickr – http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15230406.2013.777139#.UmD0HOJvA24.

      If you find any good sources of data, it would be great if you could share them on this blog. Thanks!

      Good luck with your course.


  1. October 8, 2013 at 5:17 pm

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