- 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.
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.
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’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.
Categories: All Posts