Help me keep from feeling like I'm on Big Brother.
March 4, 2014 2:25 PM   Subscribe

I value my privacy, and knowing that people I don't really know can easily discover my current physical location makes me feel queasy inside. How can I use the internet/social without basically shouting to the rest of the internet "this is where my body is right NOW!"? Details inside.

I just watched this 'social media experiment', which made me a bit paranoid and provoked me to ask this question.

Now, I'm not using Instagram. But I am worried that people I don't know well can use other methods I don't know of to easily tell where I am since I use Facebook/Gmail, have a cellphone, etc. Heck, I don't even like my closer friends knowing where I am unless I tell them; I value my privacy, and remember being creeped out when Facebook friends would know exactly where I was (before I shut my Facebook messenger location off).

I understand that I won't be able to maintain my privacy so long as I am using the internet, but the possibility that strangers/social media friends can find out where I physically am whenever they would like to makes me paranoid. Besides disabling my location of Facebook, what other steps should I take to help with this?
posted by Kamelot123 to Technology (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
For every service you use - twitter, facebook, instagram - learn where the location settings are, and disable them. In general, that's all you have to do. If you want to be especially sure, borrow someone else's phone/computer and look at your own profile/feed/etc, and see if it contains any location data.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:29 PM on March 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also make sure that your GPS coordinates aren't in the metadata of your photos!
posted by thelonius at 2:34 PM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also don't talk about where you are on social media. Like, don't SAY where you are right now. And don't take photos of recognizable places and immediately upload them to your twitter and facebook. Wait a week before you put up your vacation photos, etc.

Also I would recommend very closely paying attention to privacy notices you get from your social media, and re-checking the location and other privacy settings on a regular schedule, say once a month or so (you might want to limit the number of services you use to make it easier to keep tabs on all of the privacy settings).
posted by mskyle at 2:35 PM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you have an Android phone, there is an app that I have that puts out a fake gps location to all your other apps.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:42 PM on March 4, 2014

- Set up your phone with a button or widget so it is trivial to switch the GPS on or off at any time, then leave it off, and only turn it on in the rare events when you actually want to use it (bonus: this increases your battery life!)
- Similarly, you can disable your (Android) phone from letting apps get location via looking at nearby wifi/cell connections.
- Similarly, you can use airplane mode to only enable cell connection when you want to use it, to prevent even the cellular network providers (ie the NSA, provided they haven't also sabotaged the handset) from knowing the phone's location. This also saves battery life, but it means people can't call you while you're not on the network.

That last one is probably not worth it - it sounds like it bothers you more that regular people could search for you, rather than nefarious agencies or people with warrants. Regular people shouldn't have access to your cell tower records unless they're also ID thieves.
posted by anonymisc at 2:45 PM on March 4, 2014

the possibility that strangers/social media friends can find out where I physically am whenever they would like to makes me paranoid.

Also, don't worry about this. Even Facebook at it's worst, before you tightened it down, didn't allow that. Anyone trying to find you had to wait for the right confluence of events (such as you doing XYZ on the service with settings ABC, etc) to get a snapshot of your location, and it's just that - a snapshot from that moment, not the continuous feed necessary to know whenever they liked. Regular people can't find out where you are whenever they like unless they get possession of your phone and passwords long enough to install a tracking app.
posted by anonymisc at 2:56 PM on March 4, 2014

In addition to technology based solutions, make sure your friends know not to post "out at place with Kamelot123", or post pictures of you. If you are often with the same people, even if they don't mention you are along, but they put out a lot of information about themselves, someone might guess where you are.
posted by yohko at 3:05 PM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend a military guide on opsec and social media. While the reasoning is different, something like this is trying to do the same thing you are.
posted by zabuni at 3:06 PM on March 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that a lot of this stuff is really about what you put out into the world.

If you don't want people to know where you are right now, don't do social networking from there.
posted by Sara C. at 3:07 PM on March 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

In addition to the above, tell Facebook that you have to approve any material tagged with you, so photos tagged with you that might reveal location won't automatically appear on your timeline. I think you can also universally prevent people from being able to tag you at all.

Also, I add my vote to mskyle's suggestion to wait until you've moved on to a different location before you post vacation photos or any photos of specific, identifiable places.
posted by ceiba at 3:18 PM on March 4, 2014

I won't be able to maintain my privacy so long as I am using the internet

Sure you will. Just use a dial-up connection, or a computer at the library.
posted by Rash at 3:31 PM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

yohko: "In addition to technology based solutions, make sure your friends know not to post "out at place with Kamelot123", or post pictures of you."

IME, this works best if you let people know about it ahead of time. I once tweeted a photo of the spouse & myself with a couple of friends after a get-together at a local bar and then got an "OMG PLEASE TAKE THAT DOWN I DON'T PUT UP PHOTOS OF MYSELF" from one of them. I did delete it, but I grumbled about "your damn avatar is a photo of your face" as I did so, and I've felt a bit less enthusiastic about seeing that acquaintance since then. (Note, if this person had said something up front, it would have been 100% OK not a problem totally cool, just to be clear about that. It was the after-the-fact, "if you had said something while we were taking the photo I could have avoided making this misstep" aspect that annoyed me.)
posted by Lexica at 6:07 PM on March 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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