Twitter Knows Where You Are

January 12, 2019

Does the entire world really need to see where you’re tweeting from? I usually don’t think about how much location data I’m sharing on Twitter, because I don’t think anybody cares about my 1) tweets and 2) where I tweet. However, a new report from Wired has made me rethink my approach. As it turns out, it’s not that difficult to pinpoint exactly where you live via your tweets.

As Wired’s story goes, a researchers from the University of Illionis and Greece’s Foundation for Research and Technology created a tool called “LPAuditor,” or “Location Privacy Auditor,” to exploit the fact that a number of users had been sharing their precise GPS coordinates with Twitter for years—even if their tweets had a more generic “name of the giant city in which you live” appended to them. According to the article:

For years, users who chose to geotag tweets with any location, even something as geographically broad as “New York City,” also automatically gave their precise GPS coordinates. Users wouldn’t see the coordinates displayed on Twitter. Nor would their followers. But the GPS information would still be included in the tweet’s metadata and accessible through Twitter’s API.

Twitter didn’t change this policy across its apps until April of 2015. Now, users must opt-in to share their precise location—and, according to a Twitter spokesperson, a very small percentage of people do. But the GPS data people shared before the update remains available through the API to this day.

Oof. Thankfully, Twitter makes it incredibly easy to delete any location data you’ve sent it, and maybe it’s time to give that feature a whirl. To find it, go visit the “Privacy and safety” screen on your Twitter account settings.

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