We've all heard the stories: A young man or woman is followed and attacked. But we may be helping would-be stalkers, particularly through activity on social media. Our Kat De Maria sat down with an expert and tells us about tracking data and what it can tell people about who and where we are.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Imagine you're at the Schine Student Center at Syracuse University. Someone comes up to you and says they like baking, too. The person knows a lot about you but has never actually met you. It may be alarming, but it's possible, through a smart phone app called Highlight.
"Accesses almost all of your publicly available data off of Facebook and uses it to suggest people who might be nearby you that you don't know that might have something in common with you, suggesting them as possibly somebody to go up and meet," said Kate Brodock, SU Digital and Social Media Executive Director.
Highlight, which SU's digital and social media director says has been described as "very creepy," is one of many tracking apps that builds off of Foursquare, which allows you to "check in" at many locations. Foursquare sometimes offers deals or discounts and has social appeal.
"It's interesting when people post when they're in a new place, maybe they're at a restaurant I haven't tried or seeing a movie I haven't seen before, I can ask them how it was, what they thought about it. It's just a good way to keep current," SU graduate student Gregory Sides said.
Sides says he limits his locations to a few close friends. But it's possible to let a whole lot of people know where you are, if your Foursquare is linked to Facebook or Twitter.
Facebook itself also does a lot of tracking, including of who you're with and where you are. This fun company picture lets each of these co-workers' friends know that all of us were at the bowling alley, for example. And thanks to the recent changes to Facebook, information like that and more goes to all of their friends, too.
"Their entire network can then see what you've posted, all of the comments on there and if you've been geolocated, they can understand that, as well," Brodock said.
Well it's pretty obvious that right now I'm at Syracuse University. But I won't be by the time this story airs and I don't use check-in services like Foursquare. But what if somebody does, but doesn't want people to know where they are all the time?
"I always tell people don't geotag your house, when you leave the house you might not want to immediately broadcast to the world. Moderate level of check-ins and that," said Brodock.
The social media director also suggests familiarizing yourself with privacy settings on tracking applications and customizing them to suit your comfort level.
For Laetitia Degoul, who does not have a smart phone, she says apps like Highlight are way too much.
“I think it's still weird to go up to somebody and say, oh, I hear you like baking, and we should be friends," Degoul said.
The social media director suggests Googling yourself often and understanding how applications use the data available to them.
As with many things, advocates say education is the key to staying safe: At SU or anywhere in the social media world.