Twitter + location = WeKnowYourHouse

Filed Under: Featured, Privacy, Social networks, Twitter

Yesterday, we wrote about how Michael Dell's daughter had been too open with details of her family's activities and location, and gave some advice on how to post wisely on social networks. One of our readers, James, then left a comment on the story alerting us to WeKnowYourHouse.com.

Calling itself "another social networking privacy experiment", WeKnowYourHouse scours Twitter for people using the word "home" in their tweets and picks up their associated geolocation, then publishes said tweet to its site along with information about where the tweeter is.

Example WeKnowWhereYouLive post

The site tells you where the person is, plots them on a map, shows you the Google Street View picture of that location, tells you nearby places they've found on Foursquare, crime statistics for the area, local photos posted to Instagram near that location, and even shows an advert where you can "Meet local sl**s". Nice.

Map with pin, courtesy of ShutterstockThe site promises that it only keeps the last hour of data, and then fully deletes it, but it's scary to see how much information can be compiled against someone so quickly, using information that is freely available.

It reminds me of the "NeedADebitCard" Twitter account, which scans Twitter for the words "debit card" and an associated photo, and then publishes the photo and tweet.

It's crazy how much personal information people keep pumping out for the world to see. To repeat part of Duck's advice:

Turn geolocation services off. Giving out regular and precise updates of your whereabouts is convenient - but you should consider your location to be a form of PII (personally identifiable information).

WeKnowYourHouse agrees: "Our advice is don't check in at your own home, whether using Twitter with locations, Foursquare, Google Latitude, or any other location-aware service, because you're telling the world exactly where you live."

But what do you think? Is it a useful site to make people aware of the risks of having location services turned on? Or is it an invasion of privacy, pulling all the information together as an "experiment", when these people haven't opted in?

Map with pin, courtesy of Shutterstock

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25 Responses to Twitter + location = WeKnowYourHouse

  1. James · 709 days ago

    The site is now offline, but with no explanation.

    • Paul Ducklin · 709 days ago

      Well...it's still online inasmuch as there's still a branded web page which appears, and the ads are still working :-)

      • James · 709 days ago

        None of the content is there though.

        How long before someone else makes a copy?

    • Robert Gracie · 709 days ago

      You wonder if Dell has gone after it and shut it down or something...you have to wonder if the people behind it are in the cooking pot with the vegetables right now with Twitter and some other big name companies?

  2. sleepingfaster · 709 days ago

    Sounds rather similar to pleaserobme.com

  3. Robin Collins · 709 days ago

    " Or is it an invasion of privacy, pulling all the information together as an "experiment", when these people haven't opted in?"
    It's nothing of the kind, there is no 'private' information in that list you cite this website says it's using.

    Yes, this is scary stuff, but this site is definitely not breaching any 'privacy', there's none to breach here.

    • Gandalf · 708 days ago

      Privacy is both a legalistic and a social concept; a bureaucratic and a moral issue.

      As the author pointed out, the site refers to itself as "another social networking privacy experiment."

      So, asking if it might be considered to be invading our privacy (not quite the same perhaps as breaching it) seems perfectly reasonable...

  4. wrossmck · 709 days ago

    Realisticly, having somebody know where you live isn't the worst of things that could happen. The majority of people out there won't want to come and murder you, and if they do, would they not either A. know where you live already, or B. (in the case that you're a 'stranger' to them) just kill any body in the nearest house, rather than look on twitter for somebody who is checked in at home.

    • Internaut · 709 days ago

      It's not about the possibility of being slaughtered by some wacko. It's about someone using the info to steal a 7 year old daughter, note one's habits, use for stealing info, ID, or goods. It's about spammers knocking at one's door selling everything from male enhancement to university degrees. It's about people that just don't like all eyes on them.

      It's about walking into a retail store and your annoying whatever-pod ring-tone goes off telling you that your rain gutters are in poor condition and should be replaced, pictures and all, there is a crack in your vehicles windshield and your insurance agency won't cover you unless you get it fixed.

      It's about your employer checking out your habits during your own time.

      It's about anyone doing a little finger work, and discovering when you and your wife left on a 10 minute delayed flight to wherever, noting that your kids are in summer camp. Do you live in a wealthy area, middle income and worth the risk to break in.

      It's about choices, and boundaries. Googoyle and others are chipping away at one and over-stepping the other.

      I

      • njorl · 707 days ago

        "spammers knocking at one's door selling everything from male enhancement to university degrees" - labour rates must be dismal in your neighbourhood.

    • LAGraham · 708 days ago

      It's about permitting stalkers to mine more and more info via internet. A friend's daughter is now being stalked and threatened by someone she Rejected on Match.com - he even photoshopped her face onto some porn websites and is attempting extortion as well; he's been able to do this because of technologies like this and Google's "Lack of Privacy" policies. Google yourself sometime; you'll be amazed at what you've put "out there" without even realizing it - and what others have put out there about you as well.

    • Adrienne Boswell · 704 days ago

      There is an FBI case of a teen girl who was on line with someone she thought was another student living across the country. In her messaging with this person, she mentioned that she was all alone in the house. What she did not know was the person had been stalking her, and was sitting a car parked down the street. He went into the house, raped and killed her.

      This is the real danger. There are sexual predators out there looking for easy access to victims. Social networking is like a candy store.

      • Graham Cluley · 703 days ago

        Can you provide a reference with more details of the case? Without more info it has the hint of an urban legend about it (not saying that it is, it's just that more details might dismiss any doubts)

        Cheers

  5. Richard · 709 days ago

    I did the vote and am surprised that ~2/3 the respondents think that obtaining public information and displaying it is "invading our privacy". IMO, if its public knowledge than its not invading any sort of privacy.

    To me its like going to a baseball game, giving your better half a smooch, and it being displayed on the jumbotron. If you don't want people to know than you need to be informed and not post it to where the world can see.

  6. Jon Fukumoto · 709 days ago

    This is the reason I don't use the check in feature in Facebook. I sometimes do status updates, but I make no mention of where I am. However, I very rarely do status updates, though.

  7. Mathew Power · 709 days ago

    The majority of votes so far suggest that this site is invading privacy, but I don't understand how someone could have any expectation of privacy when posting this information on a publicly accessible site. This is absolutely a good education for users though, along the same lines of pleaserobme.com as well.

  8. jschpp · 709 days ago

    How could the site be an invasion os my privacy if I'm careless enough to post those details on the net...

    Was'nt there something like this a while ago with a collection of tweets and fb status updates concerning drunkness dumb bosses etc?

  9. John Menerick · 709 days ago

    This is nothing new. http://www.abc17news.com/news.php?id=2319 and other news organizations interviewed icanstalku.com's creators. Best part is to look at youtube videos where people, assuming inadvertently, show their CC numbers.

  10. NotAHipster · 709 days ago

    http://pleaserobme.com/ did this before it was cool...

  11. Becky · 709 days ago

    Anyone can look up my address right now online in about .015 seconds.

  12. Internaut · 709 days ago

    I can walk down any street in my neighbourhood taking pictures of anyone's abode.
    I can post a series of those pictures, listing the names, telephone number, address, city, country, and postal code. If I can find their picture on their Twit, Goog, Faceb, MySpa, or whatever, I can add that as well.

    If I did that, without checking with the residents, and they find out, do you think they will call to thank me? I'm easy to find, Google though they are everywhere, is very hard to find.

    I will depend on the courts to decide if no one is breaching any privacy laws - in this country. In either case, it doesn't make it right.

    Morals, ethics, and honesty are going down the Google toilet.

    I

  13. teejuu · 708 days ago

    If people want to publish their details online then that is their choice. I think the issue here is that these features are generally turned on by default and people are too trusting/stupid/lazy to turn them off.

    • Internaut · 708 days ago

      You can't expect everyone to be as smart, security-wise, and as brilliant and well-informed as you are.

    • @paulmwatson · 708 days ago

      On Twitter it is default turned off and you have to go through the website to turn it on. Less than 4% of Tweets are geotagged.

      Facebook requires explicit geotagging per post.

      Instagram asks if you want to turn geotagging on before first using it.

      Foursquare is a geolocation service, no other reason to use it.

  14. Nipster · 707 days ago

    Twitter themselves collate and sell geo-location data. Most people tweet during the evening and generally in the same place, so it's pretty easy to work out that they are probably sitting on their own sofa watching TV.

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About the author

Anna Brading has worked in tech for more than ten years and as a writer with Sophos for over five. She's interested in social media, privacy, and stopping people doing silly things online.