A new website instantly analyzes tweets to see if users are accidentally tipping off bosses when they skip work or exes about where they are living. GeoSocial Footprint analyzes geolocation info attached to tweets, Instagram pictures, or Foursquare logins posted to Twitter (yup, those sites feed geographic info to Twitter too), and hashtags tagged to specific locations or events. The site is a product of the University of Southern California’s Spatial Sciences Institute and leverages Twitter’s API and Google’s Geocoding API.
Chris Weidemann, GeoSocial Footprint’s creator, is a graduate student at USC’s Geographic Information Science and Technology program. His website builds on a recently published study which found a staggering one in five publicly accessible tweets divulge user location. Most of these user location revelationss are due to users unintentionally leaving the geolocate feature turned on in Twitter’s mobile app. “I’m a pretty private person, and I wish others would be more cautious with the types of information they share,” Weidemann said in a release. “There are all sorts of information that can be gleaned from things outside of the tweet itself.” Other apps, like Ready or Not, are also showing how similar data get collected.
The image above, from Weidmann’s study in the International Journal of Geoinformatics, shows the density of tweets published during the study collection period which were either geotagged or had their geographic location revealed through ambient information. Even if users aren’t worried about their location data being accessed by people in their life, there’s still plenty of reason to be wary: This information can easily be purchased by marketers, data mining firms, law enforcement, and government.