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We Know Where You Live

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From location data alone, even low-tech snoopers can identify Twitter users homes, workplaces.

Locations stamps on tweets can be used the expose the home and workplace addresses of Twitter users, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Oxford University.

Credit: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Oxford University have demonstrated that snoopers armed with little in the way of sophisticated technology can expose the home and workplace addresses of Twitter users by exploiting the location stamps of only a handful of tweets.

"We wanted to show...that when you send location data as a secondary piece of information, it is extremely simple for people with very little technical knowledge to find out where you work or live," says Ilaria Liccardi, a research scientist at MIT's Internet Policy Research Initiative.

The researchers presented the tweet-associated time/location data as a static Google map, an animated map, and a table listing geographical coordinates, street names, and times of day. Study participants generally identified users' homes and workplaces correctly more often with the maps than with the table, while having five days' worth of data yielded more accurate guesses than having three or one.

Although the default setting of Twitter's location-reporting service is deactivated, many users opt to turn it on.

The researchers presented their work at last week's ACM CHI 2016 conference in San Jose, CA.

Harvard University professor Latanya Sweeney says the research is valuable because it "shows people can learn sensitive information from seemingly innocuous facts, and...people will easily share information they believe is innocuous."

From MIT News
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Abstracts Copyright © 2016 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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