Instagram has 300 million daily active users, on average 95 million photos are uploaded per day and 4.2 billion likes are made per day. Snapchat has 187 million daily users, with 65% uploading photos. Roughly 71% of Snapchat users are under 34 years old. It would take you 10 years to view all the photos shared on Snapchat in the last hour alone. These statistics only focus on two of the many popular social media platforms available today, and highlight how social media is a huge and growing part of society.
Social media is one of the biggest influential platforms today. Millions of people post daily updates of what they are doing, who they are with, and especially, where they are; but with these continuous updates, are we aware of the risks that come with telling the world our location?
One of the biggest trends on Instagram along with tagging your friends, is tagging your location, whether it is in a photo uploaded onto your profile or in your daily ‘story’ which is erased after 24hours. Wherever your photo or video is taken, the vast majority of people tag their location as well.
Tim Oddie, Social Media Executive at Sentiment says that “there must be people who unwillingly share their location, down to a basic misunderstanding of location sharing settings”. He added “I think that it makes the people posting feel closer to their friends and forget the risk while doing so. Everyone should be more careful due to the information which is accessible by strangers on the internet, a location only adds to this and could lead to unwelcome interest”.
Owen McMahon, a freelance social media expert, says “Sometimes we share our location for extra engagement. For example, on Instagram, geo-tagging can lead to more people coming across your content. I also think people like to share their location to feel a sense of community and place yourself in a geographical box so to speak. We should be more careful when deciding who can see our posts – especially on mediums like Snapchat which give exact locations.”
Groups of students from London, Bristol, Cardiff, Brighton, and Birmingham, aged between 18 to 23 completed a survey asking if they worry about the risks of tagging their location. When looking at how many people shared their location, it was split nearly equal between those who do and don’t.
One of the newest snapchat update features ‘Snap Map’, where by pinching your screen on the app, you can see the exact place where your friends are. The more you zoom in to a ‘Bitmoji’ (cartoon version of your friend), you can see the exact street and even building/house they are in. ‘Ghost mode’ can be turned on so that your location can’t be viewed, but many snapchat users have it active.
The survey found that over half of the students do not have ‘Ghost mode’ on, and in doing so have their location available for all their friends on Snapchat to see.
We were all made aware of the potential dangers of Facebook while growing up, through young teenagers and children falling victim to someone using social media as a platform to chat to them. Years on, as this is still an issue for younger generations, why do some people not have their privacy settings on for all profiles? Is it because gaining views and likes are more important than risks that we know little about?
The survey also asked the sample that if they knew of the consequences to sharing their location on social media, would they still do it? 72% voted they would, but they would be wary of the risks. So even if young adults, the main users of social media today, knew of the risks in sharing their location, the overall trend of tagging where you are would potentially not be damaged.
No one ever truly realises how easy it is for someone to find out information about themselves. Katie Robins realised just how easy it was for someone to find all her social media accounts last year. She started her new summer job in retail last June.
“I remember speaking to this one man, it wasn’t a long conversation, he seemed shy. The next day I had a Facebook friend request and a message from the same man. It’s company policy that I don’t reply to messages from customers. I ignored the message and three days later I had the same message again and a re-sent friend request.”
Katie once again ignored his attempt to research out, but two weeks later found an un-read message on her Instagram account. “It took me a moment to realise that it was the same man. The more I looked, I saw that he followed my profile and liked some of my photos, my account wasn’t private so it was easy to do this. Just because of my name badge he found my Facebook and Instagram. I then I realised there was a link to my twitter profile, I found that he had followed me on there and messaged me again asking about the University I went to because that information was in my bio.” She later told me how scared she was and worried that it was so easy it was to find her accounts.
Katie said “not only did he find my profile but found locations I was tagged in as well. I had no idea how easy it was to see all my information, where I live, my age and what I’ve been doing. Now everything is on private, I don’t tag locations and only my friends see what I post.”
Panda security wants the public to be more aware of the dangers which come with sharing our location on social media. They say that tagging where you are can lead to potential criminal activity. For example, posting you’re on holiday so others know you aren’t at home. Or, in cases of children sharing their location, it is dangerous when this information is available to strangers. They suggest limiting who can see that information, choosing carefully who you trust to see it, if tagging the location is necessary at all.
For more information on the risks of sharing your location on social media and ways to stay safe, click these link: