Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Security notes: Protecting Location Data on Twitter

Post's URL: http://www.iransic.com/?p=en&pid=2010/01/security-notes-protecting-location-data.html

SIC- Tuesday January 5, 2010: On Wednesday Dec 23, Twitter announced that it has acquired Mixer Labs, creators of GeoAPI, ‘a comprehensive service for helping developers build Geolocation-aware applications’. This essentially means users will be able to send tweets that tag their current location to the message like a timestamp. Although the Twitter Geotagging feature has been around since August 2009, combining this feature with GeoAPI has excited a number of users and developers while raising some concerns about users’ privacy in Twitter. The concerns specially increase because of being able to view and locate twitters on Twittermap, a third-party application that, as PC World has pointed out, may contain some location data regardless of how often users delete it.
The following note was sent to SIC by 'a friend of the movement from Europe’, hoping that this valuable information would help #iranelection activists to protect their privacy on Twitter.

The Iranian movement for freedom uses Twitter extensively. Many activist and friends of the movement are twittering in Iran. In the past few days a special security problem concerning Twitter has become obvious, an issue that should absolutely be noticed.
The problem is that - as a result of an option in personal twitter settings - the place of the used computer could be *localized*. And very unfortunately this localization is very precise.
It is strongly recommended that every twitter activist inside Iran read the following and check about this security issue on own his or her twitter profile.
Please note that this option called geo-tagging is completely different from the Location entry on the Profile page, which is visible to public.


Since a few months there is a new option in twitter called geo-tagging. This option allows twitter to send localization information together with every tweet by user.
Geo-tagging uses the quite well-known Global positioning system (GPS). This GPS technic is the base for many other applications like the navigation devices in cars.
But every twitter user can choose whether geo-tagging data will be added to his tweets or not. For security reason of course every activist, member or friend of the freedom movement in Iran should choose no geo-tagging.


For experienced users it is quite simple. In the personal twitter settings you find the option field 'Enable geo-tagging'. This option should be unmarked, no cross in that field. If there is one, unmark it!
Near this field you find a link to an FAQ written by twitter about geo-tagging.
It's not long so it would be better to read to be sure what you are doing.


After unchecking the field, please press the button 'delete all location data' below. This action will cut off all existing geo-tagging data of stored tweets on the twitter server.
If either the geotagging is on or location data has not been removed from previous tweets, one would be able to locate users on Twittermap. Here you can find a real-time list of twitters active in Iran-related hashtags. #iranelection | #sog | #cn4iran | #united4iran

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