Are you stalkable? Berkeley app lets you find out

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Your parents have probably already lectured you about always being on “the Facebook” (or, if they’re really confused, MyFace). Or you have the other extreme, and your parents literally “like” everything you post (Stop commenting on my friends’ pictures, Mom!). Well, it turns out that there actually is reason to be worried about our generation’s obsession with technology.

Because of the scary potential for legitimate stalking on social media, UC Berkeley’s very own electrical engineering and computer sciences department collaborated with the International Computer Science Institute to create the appropriately named tool known as Ready or Not. As if just the idea of someone being able to find out where you hang out isn’t freaky enough, the app shows you how different users can be pinpointed on a map based on their Twitter or Instagram usage. Want to know what Steve Wozniak has been up to? Just search his Twitter handle and it’ll pop up conveniently organized according to date and location.

When you check in on Facebook and Twitter or upload pictures on Instagram, you’re sending out a trackable location to everyone on the Internet who might want to find you. Social media sites use your phone’s GPS signal to upload your location as well as the time you were there, your pictures and your statuses. Putting up a picture of your Saturday morning breakfast (#drunkbrunch) sounds innocuous enough, right? But what you’re basically doing is telling the world your daily habits. Spooky.

Now, contrary to what it sounds like, the site’s aim isn’t to promote stalking (we hope). It was actually created to teach people that all this crazy stuff is possible and that we should be taking measures to avoid it. If you’re loath to stop using Facebook and Instagram to share your food adventures with the world, you can disable the location option on your phone. That way, whenever you post something, the location won’t be included, and when you search for yourself on this app, your coordinates won’t show up.

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The app is part of Teaching Privacy, a project whose basic aim is to teach kids not to be stupid on the Internet. Besides the whole “don’t let stalkers find you” thing, there are also more mundane considerations about Facebook comments and tweets. Like what if your future boss finds a rant about work on there? Even worse, what if you never get hired in the first place because of something you posted, not thinking anyone would see it? The project wants to put these scenarios in our heads so that we can keep using social media sites — just slightly more responsibly, as boring as that sounds.

 Image source: (cover) hank Mitchell and Sean MacEntee under Creative Commons. 

Contact Erum Khan at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @erumjkhan.

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