Discussion Topic #10: When online, think very carefully about disclosing where you are in real life

We talked about features like geo-tagging, which can reveal your location when you post photos, in Discussion Topic #6. But there are other ways you can disclose location information, for many or all to see.

For example, think about the “check in” features offered by various social networking sites. These features enable you to tell people where you are (and those check ins remain so people will later know where you’ve been, sometimes long after you’ve forgotten about it), and to receive “personalized” marketing recommendations based on where you are, or even where your friends and other people “like” you have been.

If you use check in features, then anyone with access to your profile can see where you are (on top of where you aren’t). This may be fine if you’re thinking of the friends you see every day and who already know important information about you, like where you live. But what about the people you haven’t seen for a long time, or others who you’ve just become friends with? Let’s say you go out for dinner and want to let everyone know you’re having fun by doing a check in at one of these sites. Nothing wrong with this, except now everyone on your profile knows you are out for dinner – and that you are not at home.

And think about this: when you check in to certain retail locations and restaurants you make public the locations where you spend money – meaning people will have information about the kinds of brands and products that you like. They will know exactly the places you like to go to and the kinds of things you spend your money on. This can be very valuable information to marketers and even to the people in your life who are trying to figure out what kind of person you are.

Always be careful about revealing your physical location online. If you want to let certain people know where you are at certain times you can use texts, e-mails, and phone calls.

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