Tag, You’re It


I had a good conversation with a friend of mind a few years ago.  I was going to visit her and she was starting to give me driving directions.  I told her that I probably didn’t need them because she had been broadcasting her location via her Twitter account.  Surprised, we took a look at her timeline and she had no idea that she was broadcasting her location.  A couple of clicks later and we were looking at her house on Google Streetview.  All because the new Twitter client she was using had geo-location turned on by default … it was probably in the terms of use use but neglected.

A new utility “Ready or Not” is designed to help in the cause of tracking location of Twitter and Instagram users.

It describes itself as:

This app shows how people could use your social-media posts to find you in the physical world. It uses GPS data attached to Twitter and Instagram posts to create a map of where someone’s been posting from recently.

Try to find yourself, your friends, or your favorite celebrity! Where are you most likely to be at 2:00 on a Tuesday?

This app shows how people could use your social-media posts to find you in the physical world. It uses GPS data attached to Twitter and Instagram posts to create a map of where someone’s been posting from recently.

Try to find yourself, your friends, or your favorite celebrity! Where are you most likely to be at 2:00 on a Tuesday?

I poked around with myself and some of my friends with some mixed results.

  • I couldn’t find myself which was good.  I do make sure that auto posting my location is turned off.  But, I was surprised that it didn’t identify that I checked in at Petite Côte during my dog walk tonight;
  • I could find some locations from some Twitter friends that did make sense.  I hope that they read this post and check to make sure that they know what they’re doing;
  • I found some that were out and out incorrect.

How to use it?  Just visit the site and enter a Twitter name.  After a search, you’ll get the location results displayed on a Google Map or a message that no location could be found.

Rather than identify a particular person, I chose a commercial entity.  In this case, it was one of the Big Three Car Manufacturers.  A quick search later revealed posting from the following locations.

Those familiar to the location should recognize Windsor, Detroit, Woodward Avenue

Map

Not included in the screen capture, but you’ll see when you visit the site, along the right side of you screen is the actual messages that help identify the locations.

The site isn’t perfect but the results are certainly interesting.  Some who don’t know that they’re broadcasting their location might even call it alarming.  Regardless of where you stand on the concept, it’s worth checking your own account and those of your close friends – you may decide to pass the information along to others.

If you are concerned, click the padlock to get instructions about to tighten down your location information.

It’s worth the time to check yourself out.  Do it now.

If I Had A Billion Dollars


I must admit that I was completely intrigued to figure out what a piece of software worth $1B looked like.  So, I downloaded the Waze application to my iPad to check it out.

Simply put, Waze is a mapping, turn by turn travelling, crowd-sourced traffic reporting, geographic discovery utility.  By monitoring crowd reports, the driving public in theory can become smarter about travel, avoiding heavy traffic, bypassing accidents, find local businesses, and so much more.

The concept of layers on maps is one that I think we all have come to take for granted these days.  It almost makes looking at a plain map kind of “blah”.  We want more information to add context to the map.  Unlike a tourist map, Waze applies its layers real time.  The idea of all of these social layers (see below) is very interesting and provides a really engaging look at your drive.

So, I fired it up to check it out.  From my comfy chair here in dougpete labs, where would you expect to find traffic congestion?  Of course, Huron Church Road in Windsor on the way to the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit, Michigan.  After all, the Detroit River International Crossing and the ongoing construction has made travel interesting as of late!

Let’s see what Huron Church looks like during rush hour — you can see that Waze has overlaid the basic map to show a slow traffic of 31mph.  Hmmm.  I need to change the defaults to metric if I’m keeping this!

And, unsurprisingly, it gets slower as you get onto the bridge and head over the Detroit River.

I did find the graphic representation addictive.  Moving around Windsor, that was the only reported slow area at the time that I did some screen captures.  Across the river, in Detroit, things were completely different.  Particularly in the downtown area, things were not moving terribly well!

I then turned my interest to the other layers that were available with Waze.

Things that get in the road of a smooth drive can be crowd sourced – police speed traps, traffic, accidents, etc.  It’s just a matter of selecting which one to check it out.  There was nothing from the police on this side of the border but just north of us…

In addition to the visual layer of traffic slowdowns, they’re also itemized on the traffic screen.  Presumably the passenger could be following this and giving directions to help find an alternative route.  Of course, nobody would use your portable device while driving.

The objects appear on the map to provide information for the route seeker.  If you’ve ever used a standard GPS system, you’ll be well versed with how it’s going to work.  The addition of the wisdom of the crowd adds the value to the product.

The acquistion isn’t going unnoticed.

Crosstown Traffic: Why Google’s $1B Waze Deal Faces U.S. Antitrust Scrutiny

In the meantime, I’m having fun playing around with the product.  Those who are concerned about privacy will need to pay attention to how the data is gathered.  For the classroom, it’s a great place to talk about the collection of big data and what can be done with it.

And, finally, you get a chance to see what a $1B piece of software looks like!

Thinking About Privacy


I think that the quality of a keynote address, at least for me, is the ability for it to make me think.  Driving home from ECOO, I’m still mulling around Nora Young’s talk about Big Data.  You can watch it, or rewatch it here.

She gave lots of great suggestions about the types of data we share:

Now, I like to think that I’m as cautious as the next guy.  I have Ghostery, AdBlock Plus, and Do Not Track Plus installed on all of my computer.  I have geolocating turned off when I send Twitter messages.  I’m well hidden, right?

I wrote myself one of her quotes which I think is verbatem.  “We leave digital trails behind us”.

In part of her discussion she talked about the geolocation abilities of cellphones.  Both GPS enabled and nonGPS enabled.  Heck, anyone who has ever watched Law and Order knows that this is how serious criminals or missing persons are tracked – by their cell phone location.  As I type this, I have my perfectly hidden computer in front of me but my cell phone beside it.  I have another Nora quote – “Data sets coming together to generate more data than either one”.  So, if you wanted to find me, find out when I’m on my computer and then zero in via my cell phone.

It’s only relatively recently that I’ve had the extensions to my browser.  Before that, as I was learning, I was wide open.  And, if it’s not from that information, certainly I’m somewhat identifiable by my IP address.  Or, try finding me old school – in the phonebook!

So, just what is privacy and to what extent can you control your privacy?  Or, can you even control it at all?  Is the best that you can do some sort of damage control and just minimize what you’re sharing / broadcasting?  How about students?  Do they have a sense of this?  How paranoid about this things should the average citizen be?

If you’re concerned, I would highly recommend watching and listening to her keynote.  I really found it food for thought.