Does sharing your location in social networks scare you?

My wife sent me a link to an article and video (posted below) she found the other day with a short note that said, “Please be careful.”

The caution refers to my avid use of the usual social networks: Twitter, Facebook and my recent new interest, Foursquare (thanks Jeff Hamilton!). Over the past couple of years even my mom has spoken up on the topic of making people aware of where you are; which ultimately reveals where you aren’t.

To be honest, I am totally on the fence around this topic. Sure, I think that it could be stupid, but my logic says that so is riding in a car or flying in an airplane. The odds that a tweet or Foursquare check-in having negative consequences could be the same. Or are they?

Now, the real issue isn’t about what’s likely to happen, or not. It’s really about how it makes my wife feel. She hasn’t told me to stop, but I am well aware that there is a thread of concern that that she feels that my activities could have consequences. Noted. Very well noted.

The question is, what do you think? What are your practices?

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  • Kyle Reed

    For me I am more concerned for my sisters.
    Specifically inside of facebook and twitter.
    I am worried about the people that could try and talk to them or leave them facebook messages.
    Something I talk to them a lot about.

    For me, I guess I never really thought about it for myself.

    • Kyle Chowning

      Wait until you get married. It’ll definitely change.

  • AJ in Nashville

    Good topic, Kyle; it’s certainly a poignant. I unfortunately don’t have a phone that’s recent enough to use Foursquare, or even Twitter all that well, so it’s really not an issue for me — at least not right now .

    Next fall, however, I’ll finally be out from under my cell plan contract and will be able to upgrade to a smartphone, which I definitely plan to do, but I’m not sure whether or not I’ll be jumping onto the Foursquare bandwagon right away.

    I think a lot of the concerns that folks are raising right now may be either confirmed or debunked by then.

    I do know that if I were to be able to use the technology now, i would do so very judiciously, because to not take at least the threat that someone could use your geo-location info against you is to ignore both reality and human nature.

    That’s my .02…

  • your wife

    If we were to go with your logic, then seatbelts, carseats, and door locks aren't really necessary either. It's all about probability. Yes the odds are probably small, but how will you feel if something happened and you could have prevented it if you just wouldn't have tweeted your location.

    Could something happen if you never disclosed your location? Sure. But even if disclosing your location seems benign to you, the probability that someone with ill intention will take advantage of this exponentially increases as your sphere of influence increases.

    I'm not going to tell you to stop telling people where you are, ultimately it's your decision. But I might feel better if you could tell everyone that I have a gun, a security system, a vicious dog, and I'm not afraid to use them.

    • Kyle Chowning

      So first off, my wife has a vicious dog and she isn't afraid to use them. And in other news, she'll be getting a gun and security system for Christmas AND she won't be afraid to use them. Take that scary people.

      But seriously, am I ignorant to suggest, why me or us? Why not the thousands of musicians and artists that are on the road with their schedule available for all to peruse? Why not the professional that works all day or all night? Why not the family that blogs about vacation while away? My point isn't to answer those questions, but to say that if anything were to happen to me or my family, I would feel horrible—regardless of how it happened—blame and guilt wouldn't be an issue.

      But again, you (my wife), AJ, Adrienne and others have said it, be judicial in the usage of such geo-locating services. I hear that loud and clear.

      • Jon Dale

        Kyle, I agree with you. I find the concern funny. Aren’t most people at work from 9-5 every weekday? Do they try to hide that little fact?

        I applaud the fact that you’re raising this issue. I think it’s a really crucial one to think through. I travel frequently (I’m the mayor of my airport on FourSquare) and I love that FourSquare helps me connect with friends around the country.

        I think we (as a society) have a lot to gain from sharing information that in the past we might have considered private. Health, financial and location data are the obvious three. You’ve obviously hit on a really hot topic.

        I’ve talked this over with @amydale and she doesn’t have any concerns with me posting my location. If she did, I’d stop right away. However, she chooses not to do it herself.

        Granted, we live in a mountain town in Colorado. Have lots of friends in the area and a big dog named Bear. Not exactly a high crime neighborhood :-).

        Great discussion!

      • Adrienne

        I don't think you're ignorant to suggest that… it's part of the balance that keeps rational folks from stocking the basement full of MREs, cash and ammo. However, most crimes are crimes of opportunity, and far be it from the sane to figure out what detail strikes the interest of the unstable.

        Last week, in broad daylight while I was sitting in my home office, my next-door neighbor's power was cut, and their home invaded. Two days later they tried again 3 doors down. I've asked myself 1000 times why those houses and not mine (time to weed the garden?). Turns out, these low-tech thuggies went around the neighborhood ringing doorbells to see who was home. Twitter/Facebook/Foursquare paired with Google can be like the modern doorbell for a more sophisticated criminal.

        Anyway – it's a solid question for you to ask (and for your wife to bring up!). Esp with you dividing time.

  • Tyler

    This reminds me of when people started to find out that they could be fired for what they blog or tweet about. Perhaps we tend to start utilizing certain tools before we fully appreciate the responsibility that comes with them.

    I'm torn on this. On one hand, many people are gone at work during the day. If someone wants to break into my house, they don't need to see my Facebook profile to know that I'll be gone during the weekday. {That was a freebie, criminals.}

    On the other hand, announcing that you're leaving for several days might not be particularly smart. Recently I decided to say who will be house sitting for me (whether someone is or not) when gone for a few days.

    This is simply another reason to honor the golden rule of social media: Think before you post.

    • Kyle Chowning

      Or perhaps: do unto social media, as social media would do to you.

  • @tutak

    Just don't check in when you're at home or at work and you'll be fine.

    • Kyle Chowning

      The concern is about checking in when you're out of town with the kiddos and wife still at home, not so much about my personal security.

  • Adrienne

    I think it's a balance. Since my internet life revolves somewhat around my children, I'm a little more protective about specifics of locations and schedule. I don't see problems with revealing unique outings after the fact, but the real time part and schedule revealing gives me pause. Esp things like where we go to school, etc. I figure the people who know us in real life can fill in the blanks. When I was younger, childless, and traveled full time, I likely would have felt differently, but I hold down a home fort now, and my rule is, if it could make someone I love or my home vulnerable, I don't post it.

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  • @MelaSara

    I'm not entirely sure exactly what FourSquare is – my knowledge of that is a church that you and I are very familiar with in a certain hometown. :) I understand, that especially for someone like you with a huge marketing network that Twitter is a great tool…but perhaps telling your "marketing" contacts when you're gone from your home crosses the line between personal and professional?

    • Kyle

      Not sure about the personal/professional line you’re suggesting, but I guess you could be right?

  • @knightopia

    Great discussion, Kyle! My personal rule of thumb is not to "check in" at my home address or other people's personal residences. (I have friends who do this, though!) That information is, of course, easily googleable, but at least it's not an "invitation" (if you will) for someone looking for an easy target. But I confess, my wife and I haven't really had this conversation yet. It's worth having, for sure!

  • Jason Yarborough

    I recently had my GPS stolen out of my car. More of a common object than foursquare right? I would think so. The GPS is now the most commonly stole item out of a car, so I became another statistic. The big concern with that these days is we plug our home address in there for our convenience of hitting the Go Home button. The GPS is more of a broadcast to not being home, especially when it's stolen when you're away from home. I don't really know much more scared I am of someone finding me on fourquare/facebook that of someone stealing my GPS. But if you steal my GPS today it takes you to another house in my neighborhood! So maybe we should be more careful about where we broadcast our address. Maybe it's just me but I don't feel the threat of facebook/foursquare yet. Is that naive in my thinking? In a social and now location based world, what are the options?

    • Kyle

      But what about the prehistoric white pages?

      • Jason Yarborough

        Prehistoric white pages didn't tell if you were home or not. GPS/foursquare/twitter/FB/Gowalla all can give it away. Unless people were just randomly calling homes to see if people were home or not.
        But my thing is are people really going to know who I am through FB to know where I live? Maybe we need to be more thoughtful on who we allow to follow us. The creepers would be the ones trying to follow people strictly for that reason. Which makes it all the more important to engage.

      • Shari

        Not only the prehistoric white pages but the many ‘white pages’ type websites available. Not to mention and or or … and the list goes on. The one good thing though – several of those sites are only partially accurate, without outdated information – so broadcasting your location via Twitter or FB does the updating for them. We all have to just be aware of possible consequences and never assume privacy.

  • Kyle Chowning

    So my mom just DM'd me a good point that I have never thought of (again, blaming my ignorance here), doing a quick search over at United States Department of Justice site ( reveals that there are 8 sex offenders in my zip code. That'll make you stop and think 2x.

  • mike foster

    im not a big fan of broadcasting specific details of where im at…though im sure im guilty of it and give too much info…but ive never understood my friends who like to give the exact location on google maps of where they are at…great topic kyle and interesting convo.