"Location, Location, Location" is the mantra in real estate, but it should end there. Over the past few years, social applications such as Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopd, and others have become quite popular and made geo-tagging a common practice in many people's lives. Yesterday, Facebook (the 8000lb. gorilla) added geo-tagging to their bag of tricks too (Facebook Places), making nearly everyone on the planet capable of posting their location for others to see.
The positive side to geo-tagging apps are pretty compelling. You can discover when friends are near you and grab a coffee, shop or socialize with them. It also allows you to receive map and marketing information such as driving directions to the cheapest gas station or receive a custom digital coupon for 10% off a lunch from the diner that is 0.5 miles ahead of you on the road. On the surface, this paints a very exciting and productive new future for us.
However, there is a flip side. With smartphones and many people's unwitting behavior on these social location websites, it is often the case that "bad" people also have access to your location. Imagine people looking to stalk or harm you... Now, with little to know computer skills, they might just know that you drive to work on Elm Street and stop at Joe's coffee shop each morning around 7:43AM. Scary.
So far, I have actively avoided posting my location to any of these services. But, with the activation of Facebook's 'Places' service, geo-tagging is actually on by default. As they roll out this service over the next few days, about half a BILLION people are possibly going to be sending out location data without full knowledge they are doing so! This is bad, very bad. Here is the best article on how to turn off Facebook Places that I've found to date. I suggest you do this now.
Geo-tagging is also embedded into many standalone and smartphones cameras these days. This means that photos you post online or email to people can be scanned to reveal where that photo was taken. Here is a great story from Good Morning America on that. Yes, it is wonderful that years from now you can instantly find all the photos you took on your trips to New York City, but it also means that potential "bad" people can do the same to paint a picture of your location at any given time.
Leo Laporte, a technology reporter, suggests you think about geo-tagging even further. If you Tweet or make Facebook comments, never tell ANYONE about future or current travel. Always post AFTER you've done something. If you post that you are going to Disney World next week, people know when to rob your home. If you send real-time photos from the cruise, again people knwo you are away. Those same photos will impress friends if they are posted upon your return. In fact, after editing, they may be more impressive. And, they certainly won't give away that your home is ready to be burglarized.
Indeed, "Location, Location, Location" is the most important thing. But it's not the only thing to be thinking...