Safety, Security and GPS Geolocation
If you have a smartphone, such an iPhone or Android phones, you probably know that they have geolocation features. Though these features can be quite helpful, such as if you lose your phone, they also may cause problems and even become dangerous.
Hazards Associated With Geolocation
Bottom line, geolocation can pose a threat to privacy, and though this technology may be useful and fun, it is anything but safe. Though geolocation can be used on a PC, it is primarily used on mobile phones. When used on a PC, however, it not only tracks your GPS latitude and longitude, it also may track the PC's IP address, which is connected to your physical address. Yes, it is a nifty tool, but you have to use it smartly.
For example, many online dating services have started using geolocation in order to match singles with those who are nearby. These dating services also use photos and descriptions, of course, which when combined with geolocation information, will make it very easy to track down a certain user. This certainly could have negative implications when put into the wrong hands.
Though you share this information without realizing it most of the time, you are actually giving a potentially dangerous person a full profile of your daily actions. This all makes it quite feasible that anyone who has the right software can track your movements at any time.
This danger is fully expressed by looking at how shelters for victims of domestic violence remove the batteries of the victims' phones as soon as they arrive. This prevents their attackers from tracking the victim to the shelter.
Thieves also use geolocation to determine whether or not their victims are at home, which will give them ample opportunity to burglarize a home. Stalkers also use geolocation to track their victims. In this case, they typically switch on the tracking feature of a phone without the knowledge of the phone's owner. If you believe your GPS feature has been turned on without your knowledge, you can either call your carrier or shut it off yourself.
As you can see, geolocation can certainly pose a threat to your security, and the information that is collected through geolocation is quite sensitive as it allows anyone to be targeted at any time.
Protecting Yourself When Using Geolocation on Your Devices
Here are some tips to protect yourself when using geolocation:
- Do Not Use Geolocation at Home: Logging into any account that uses geolocation from home not only shows that you are home, it also shows where the home is. This means, if a person wants to find your home address, there is really nothing stopping them.
- Do Not Use Geolocation at the Homes of Friends or Family: The same rules apply when you are at the home of a friend or family member.
- Use Caution When Following People on Social Media: With social media sites, your followers, friends, and fans are open for anyone to see. Any person who wants to can see your followers list, and due to this list, they can make assumptions about you. For instance, if you blog about politics, you may follow a lot of political candidates. Though you may be doing this simply to get information and to stay in the loop, it could give someone else dangerous ideas.
- Avoid Developing a Pattern: If you check in regularly to Starbucks every day at 3 pm, this could be detrimental to your safety. Someone who knows that you are always at Starbucks at this time can start following you, or worse, simply because they know your pattern.
- Monitor Your Connected Accounts: Many people connect social media accounts, and Twitter, for example, unless your tweets are protected, is fully public. If your Twitter account is connected to a geolocation app, such as Foursquare, your location information could be appearing on your Twitter account, and anyone can see it.
- Educate Your Family: You should take some time to research more about the dangers of using a location-based application on your mobile phone, and you should also make sure that your family is aware of these too. Weighing the rewards against the risk is something that your entire family should do.
- Learn About Your Apps: Some of the apps that use geolocation may be surprising, so make sure to go through your settings to check which apps are using it and which apps are not. Most of the well known social networking sites use this information, but so do popular gaming or information apps.