Consider Your Legal Rights When Using Geolocation

image Today, someone on Twitter sent me a DM that he was sad I have had to get a restraining order and therefore do not feel comfortable making any geolocation profiles I have public. This was in response to my many public tweets attempting to warn people that publishing your location to perfect strangers simply is not a very good idea. He felt sad that I was “denied a sense of community”. Like I don’t get to play any Reindeer Games and everyone else does.

NO.

I love the movie “Usual Suspects”. In the film, Kevin Spacey’s character gives a speech about how the greatest trick the devil ever did was to convince you he didn’t exist. This is exactly how I feel about people who don’t get why privacy is still an issue with social networking. Most people are indeed benevolent. However, it only takes ONE PERSON to make your life a living hell, and even seemingly rational people do very irrational things. Good people can do very evil things, evil does exist, and you do have to have some form of circumspection when utilizing social media. It doesn’t mean it can’t be fun or useful–it just means you probably shouldn’t make yourself a sitting duck by broadcasting where you are every waking moment to the entire world. I don’t understand why this is something people resist so much.

Why is this so scary to me? The lady who processed my protective order told me one of the most common ways abusive ex-husbands find their ex-wives in hiding  is by using their credit card statements. If a woman forgets to have her credit card statements forwarded to her new address, her abusive ex can see where she is spending money and track her whereabouts. Yes, women have been killed this way. Educated women who thought they were married to sane people.

imageSo now, with a public profile on a geolocation social network, any shmuck not only could have access to your address, where you are legally entitled to act out against an intruder, but where you like to get coffee, eat, drink, or hang out with your friends. You have no legal rights to ask someone to leave in these places without a protective order, which is VERY difficult to get.

So you could go to a party, say the wrong thing to the wrong person, and then find them in all your regular spots looking for an apology. You could anger a customer by accident and find them in your favorite coffee house to harass you. You could date a girl twice, decide she’s not for you, and then find her in all of your favorite spots, and you have no legal rights to tell that person to go away. It takes one creepy person to really mess with your mind and trust me, you have to be physically harmed or threatened before the cops really start to look into it. Sometimes, they don’t believe you and it makes you feel even crazier. Is it really worth it?

So sure, use geolocation. Just make sure you are accessible to all the cool people you want in your “community” and not so much to the creepy people you don’t.

[Editor’s Note: Michelle cross-posted this to her personal blog. –mrh]