Privacy alert over ‘scary’ site which publishes home addresses of Twitter users from around the world

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  • Controversial site claims it is alerting  users to the security risks of Twitter
  • Privacy experts warn of increasing number of  mobile phone apps that reveal your locations

By Mark Prigg

PUBLISHED:09:54 EST, 23  August 2012| UPDATED:12:25 EST, 23 August 2012

A controversial web site that publishes  twitter users home addresses online has come under fire from security  experts.

The site uses location information it says  many people unwittingly transmit every time they send a tweet.

It then matches this to their home address,  even providing a Google Street View image of their home in some  cases.

weKnowYourHouse.com checks for users who have included the work home in a tweet and have transmitted their location. It then displays their address, and even a pictureweKnowYourHouse.com checks for users who have included  the work home in a tweet and have transmitted their location. It then displays  their address, and even a picture

HOW IT WORKS

Many mobile phone twitter apps can transmit a  user’s location.

The site looks for this location in any tweet  containing the word ‘home’.

When it finds a match, it uses Google Maps to  match the location with an address.

After removing the most sensitive parts of  the address, it it published on the web site

The creators of WeKnowYourHouse.com say they  are providing a service by alerting users to the location feature.

They describe the site as ‘an  experiment’.

they also claim similar privacy issues exist  with other services such as FourSquare and Google’s Latitude.

‘Our advice is don’t check in at your own  home, whether using Twitter  with locations, Foursquare, Google Latitude, or any  other location-aware service, because you’re telling the world exactly where you  live,’ the team say on the site.

‘This website simply takes that, runs it  through a geocoder to turn it  into a human readable address, and links it with  Google Street View.’

The team even boast of how simple the site  was to set up.

‘The code is not particularly complicated  either, and is done completely  automatically.’

The site says it deletes user’s data after an  hour, and also offers user an option to opt out of the site.

The site displays a constantly rolling list of usernames and addresses, with full details removed to retain some privacy for users.The site displays a constantly rolling list of usernames  and addresses, with full details removed to retain some privacy for users.

Security experts have described the site as  ‘scary’.

‘The site promises that it only keeps the  last hour of data, and then fully deletes it, but it’s scary to see how much  information can be compiled against someone so quickly, using information that  is freely available,’ said Anna Brading of security firm Sophos.

The site also explains how to switch off location capabilities in twitter software on mobile phones.The site also explains how to switch off location  capabilities in twitter software on mobile phones.

The site’s creators say it was built as a  warning to users.

‘The idea is simple: many people tweet about  being at home, and some even attach their location to it.

‘This is represented as the latitude and  longitude, and is completely open for any website or application to access.’

Nick Pickles, director of privacy campaign  group Big Brother Watch, believes the site could actually help users by drawing  attention to the location information.

‘The simple truth is that mobile phones are  tracking devices that let us make calls,’ he said.

‘Many people are sharing their location with  a whole range of services without realising just how seriously they are  compromising their privacy.

‘As this website shows, the number of people  who share information that could identify where they live continues to be a  major cause for concern and it’s a very useful tool to highlight just how big a  problem this is.

‘It further highlights the need for much  stronger regulation of what happens with our personal information, particularly  geolocation data.’

He also called on technology firms such as  Google, Apple and Twitter to be more open about their capabilities and help  educate users.

‘Equally, the organisations involved need to  do much more to educate consumers about what data is being shared and how they  can take control of it.’

Mobile phone user’s could be accidentally revealing  their home address when they tweet, a controversial website that publishes  twitter user’s location online claims.

Mr Pickles fear that as firms begin to  harness the potential of using mobile phone user’s location data to target them  with adverts, the problem could get much worse.

‘However, when profit from targeted  advertisements relies on using location data, consumers are seeing the perils of  companies putting profit before privacy.’

Twitter initially suspended the  @WeKnowYourHouse account earlier this week, temporarily cutting off its access  to tweets.

However, the account appeared to have been  reinstated today, and the site was working normally.

Twitter did not respond to requests from  MailOnline to clarify its position.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2192554/Privacy-concerns-scary-site-publishes-twitter-users-home-addresses.html#ixzz24QO9X76O



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