Locative media has always been a topic I have felt uneasy about. Whilst I can certainly understand the appeal of highlighting that you are away on a fanciful European sabbatical, the most common – and mundane- of these posts seem to pose an incredible security risk. Dean Chan’s research into Japanese gaming, which utilises locative media to identify other players, indicates that many of the users were indeed highly aware of this potential security risk and actively sought to protect their privacy. However, it seems that this proactive approach to online security has not transferred to the greater social networking communities, such as Foursquare, Instagram or Facebook Places, which is the platform I choose to explore further in this blog. My anxiety with Facebook Places began one night as I was looking at my Facebook newsfeed and saw that a friend had checked herself in at ‘My Bed’ and telling her friends that she was ‘lonely’. Apart from being information I was not essentially interested in, I realised that Facebook Places actually provided a map – through Google Maps – which told me exactly what number her house was and what street it was in. At the time I was also in bed by myself and pondered if I would really want all of my associations to know where exactly I was, and how alone I essentially was when I was in a vulnerable state of sleep.
Not only do my issues lay in allowing people to know so specifically my whereabouts, but it occurred to me that by telling people exactly where I am, I am also telling them exactly where I am not. So like I stated before, it might be satisfying to brag to your friends about your hard earned romp around the world but by doing so you are essentially putting up a big sign on the internet that says, “I am not home. Come and take all my belongings”. This is an issue that has been picked up by online crusaders PleaseRobMe.com. Highlighting to everyday users of social media the perils of this inexplicably addictive form of communication, they aim to help users find out if they too are giving away too much information. Currently their services only reach to Twitter and Foursquare users, one can only hope that they can expand their services to educate Facebook users.
But what is the solution to this excessive and potentially dangerous overshare of information? Some suggest education but then issues of responsibility arise. The platforms themselves do not want to restrict this free-flow of information which makes their social networking sites so popular and profitable too. The government’s involvement could lead to arguments of government censorship. However I cannot help but wonder why the user is not forced to take some responsibility. One of the first things I was told when I first started using the internet was to never give out my home address, last name or phone number. Somehow Facebook Places has managed to wipe out these ideas and convince users that it’s beneficial to broadcast this information to the greater population. Facebook Places may be a fun tool to make your friends jealous but the next time someone tries to check in at my house, they should expect to ejected quite promptly afterwards.
Chan, D 2008, ‘Convergence, Connectivity, and the Case of Japanese Mobile Gaming,’ Games and Culture, vol.3, no.1, pp 13-25.
Please Rob Me 2010, accessed 25/3/2012, http://www.pleaserobme.com