Creepy Takes the Work out of Stalking

Social Media

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As the integration of social media continues unabated, there are questions and concerns regarding the reams of data in regards to the geoweb. Be it check-in services like Foursquare or services like Twitter, which also features location-based data, provided the user wants to enable this feature, the ability to track someone based on their social media use is easier than most would suspect.

Now, with applications like Creepy, stalking your prey developing a pattern of behavior for someone of interest, especially if they are ignorant in the ways of geo-technology, is even easier. According to Creepy's developer, ilektrojohn, the application does the following:

creepy is an application that allows you to gather geolocation related information about users from social networking platforms and image hosting services. The information is presented in a map inside the application where all the retrieved data is shown accompanied with relevant information (i.e. what was posted from that specific location) to provide context to the presentation.

In other words, creepy aggregates user data from Twitter, provided the user has turned on the location feature, and data from EXIF tags from photos posted to Flickr, among other image-sharing sites.

This data is then mapped on a service like Google Maps, and presto. You can now see the geolocation profile of the user who was queried. Essentially, you'll get a detailed geo-web based diary of the person's movements and activities, based on their check-ins and image uploads. Granted, in order to use creepy, knowing the user name of the target in question is essential. While that isn't much of a problem on Twitter, finding out this information about Flickr users, as well as other image services, may be more problematic. Good thing TwitPic is also represented by the creepy app.

Now, for those of you worried about this explosion in harness-able geo-data, and fear everybody everywhere tracking your every movement, Mike Melanson over at has a perspective that might put people at ease:

So, should you stop broadcasting your location? I vote no. (And not because I want to stalk you, I swear.) I share my location all the time and for a number of reasons. It enables random and serendipitous connections to occur. I can look back and have all sorts of contextual information as I weave my way through the world. I can plug it all in to services like MemoLane and get a time-ordered snapshot of my own life, as I share it online.

Of course, this little tidbit at the end of Melanson's post might make you reconsider:

This isn't for everyone. If you have bad relationships with your exes or lawyers coming after you for bills, you might not want to live so publicly. And are we that far off from insurance companies gathering check-in information and using it to calculate your premiums?

Or how about unsolicited, contextual advertising based on your current location, delivered directly to your mobile device of choice? Does the idea of that creep you out? Granted, the Creepy app does nothing of the kind, but if a freelance developer can do something like this in their spare time, what kind of data collection utilities do you think companies like AT&T have?

Here's a little art project video from Chris Oakley showing the potential of this tracking technology. While Oakley's work is fictional, it seems quite plausible and quite surprising:

Still think all this geolocation data is benign?