Geolocation Data Lets Thieves Know When To Rob You

Take a moment to think about the last time you “checked in” somewhere on a social media site or were tagged in someone else’s status update. People often do this to share the cool things they see or do on vacation or their day off work.

In that moment you just took, did the term “geolocation data” spring to mind? If not, it should have – along with data security. Geolocation data includes all these tags and check-ins, where you are announcing to the world where you are and what you’re doing. Companies use this information to tailor advertisements and other marketing materials to target specific audiences.

Now, we can debate the ethical practices used by these organizations to gather our personal information until the chickens come home to roost, but there are others out there who clearly have nefarious machinations in mind. That check-in at a concert you’re having a blast at tells the online world that you are not home and now might be a good time to break into your house and steal everything you own.

What about that housewarming party you set up an event for on Facebook with your address? Now would-be thieves have a map to your unguarded possessions. And all those photos you posted from that party gave them a clear view of the layout of your home and what goodies they can expect to pilfer.

We post so many details about our lives on the Web on a daily basis, giving no thought to online privacy and its real world implications, that it’s a cakewalk for someone to put the pieces together and victimize you.

So here’s some advice. The next time you head out on vacation, don’t announce it to the world on social media sites beforehand or check-in at all the cool places you’re visiting along the way. Wait until you’re back at home to tell people how your trip went and post pictures.

Data privacy isn’t just about protecting files on your hard drive, it’s about protecting your online and physical world, because they are inextricably linked.

John Sileo is an online privacy expert and keynote speaker on social media privacy, identity theft and fraud. His clients included the Department of Defense, Pfizer, and Homeland Security. See his recent work on 60 Minutes, Anderson Cooper and Fox Business.