Over the weekend, it was revealed a “social experiment” was scanning tweets associated with location data and the keyword “home.” From there, it was putting that location on a Google map curating residences relatively close to where the tweeters live.
Gizmodo calls it “creepy” and notes that most of the addresses on WeKnowYourHouse.com were from Ireland and in the U.K, but other countries including the United States have emerged on the site as well. Earlier today, the website was offline for “some important issues,” but it has since been active again.
Here’s what the site is all about:
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. 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 code is not particularly complicated either, and is done completely automatically.
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.
In order to protect your privacy, the site says that only the past our of data collected is displayed. After that, it is deleted. Read more about how it works here.
The U.K.’s edition of the Huffington Post gives the example tweet of “Just got home, time for a cup of tea” to show the types of tweets that would have been picked up by the website.
Here’s what one Reddit user had to say about the site:
This site seems shady, and I’m not talking about the experiment. In order to opt out of the DB, it makes you sign in to Twitter, then grant permissions it really doesn’t need. Not only that, but they force you to install a toolbar to opt out. It’s a cool concept, but this is not a professional academic “experiment,” and the whole thing sets off alarms.
Somewhat cryptically, another Reddit user comments “What if we tell the people appearing in the site what is going on and create mass hysteria.”
Gizmodo also finds this opt out method “sketchy.” It suggests turning off location data features on your smartphones apps in general if you’re concerned about privacy. The Huffington Post also points out that you can delete location data from previous tweets under “settings” > “accounts.”
This post has been updated to reflect that WeKnowYourHouse.com is back online and to add more information about the site.