Location-based social networking applications

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Location-based social networking applications

Location-based social networking applications Foursquare, Facebook Places and other applications

Location-based social networking is quickly growing in popularity. A variety of applications are capitalizing on users’ desire to broadcast their geographic location.

Most location-based social networking applications focus on “checking in” at various locations to earn points, badges, discounts and other geo-related awards.

Why are these applications potentially dangerous?

Establishes patterns:Services like MotionX(on right) and other location-based social networking applications allow strangers to track your movements every day. If they watch someone long enough they will know exactly when and where to find that person on any given day.

Exposes places of duty and home: By tracking movements and aggregating information, strangers can determine where someone lives and works.

Identifies location of Army personnel: If certain applications are used daily around Army populations, an enemy can determine potential targets.

Foursquare

Foursquare is a location-based social networking website for mobile devices. Users “check-in” at various places using a mobile website. They are then awarded points and sometimes “badges.”

Users of foursquare use the service to share their location with friends, meet new people and get coupons. Users can also connect and publish their “check ins” to Facebook and Twitter. If someone is not a friend on foursquare they can still track your whereabouts through Facebook.

Foursquare has over 4 million users. Foursquare currently has iPhone, Android, webOS, Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry applications.

http://foursquare.com/

 

Facebook Places

Facebook’s”Places” is similar to Foursquare in that it gives an individual’s location when the users posts information using a mobile application.This feature is available by using the Facebook application for iPhone, touch.facebook.com and Android.This function is automatically active on all Facebook accounts until disabled.

http://www.facebook.com/places/

 

Gowalla

Gowalla is another location-based social networking application that functions much like Foursqare and Facebook Places. Users can build a Passport which includes a collection of stamps from the places users have been.

Gowalla users can also post photos and submit tips at various locations.

http://gowalla.com/

OPSEC Concerns

The main function of location-based social networking applications is to broadcast a user’s specific location. Exposing Soldier and unit locations gives the enemy the upper hand. One Soldier exposing his/her location can affect the entire mission.

Deployed Soldiers, or Soldiers conducting operations in classified aeas should not use location-based social networking services. These services will bring the enemy right to the Army’s doorstep.

Avoid geo-tags on photo sharing applications

Many photo sharing applications give the user the opportunity to geotag a photo. In some cases, these geotag scan add context to a photo,

but when it comes to Army operations, geo-tagging operational photos is not allowed.

Users can delete geotaggedphotos, but once the information is out there, it’s out of the user’s hands. Even if posted briefly, the enemy

can capture vital information and record exact grid coordinates of troop populations.

 

Turn off GPS function on phones

One of the simplest ways to avoid displaying too much information is to disable the geo-tagging function on smartphones.Since most smart phones automatically display geographical information, it takes a little more effort on the user’s part to protect their privacy.

It’s important that all users understand their specific systems and make efforts to turn off their phone’s geo-tagging function.

Summary

Geo-tagging photos and using location-based social networking applications is growing in popularity, but in certain situations, exposing specific geographical location can be devastating to Army operations. Soldiers should never tag photos with geographical location when loading to photo sharing sites like Flickrand Picasa.

Soldiers should not use location-based social networking applications when deployed, at training or while on duty at locations where presenting exact grid coordinates could damage Army operations. It is advised that while Soldiers are engaged in Army operations, they should turn off the GPS function of their smartphones. Failure to do so could result in damage to the mission and even put families at risk.

Users deciding to utilize location-based social networking sites should be aware of the default settings for the services and devises they use. It is recommend that the users customize settings to be mindful of OPSEC and success of Army operations.

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