back to article FYI: Twitter's API still spews enough metadata to reveal exactly where you lived, worked

Researchers have demonstrated yet again that location metadata from Twitter posts can be used to infer private information like users' home addresses, workplaces, and sensitive locations they've visited. Computer science boffins Kostas Drakonakis, Panagiotis Ilia, Sotiris Ioannidis, and Jason Polakis affiliated with The …

  1. tiggity Silver badge

    Hope they have fun

    With some old auto generated tweets i did.

    Back in the day worked at company where devs had to (bizarrely) have social media presence (alerting customers of forthcoming new features etc.).

    I created a PC based tool for automating this (tweet based on content of specially tagged text in source code commits).

    Back then (no idea if its changed as this was years ago), it was possible to set location data from API, so I had it "randomly" set location from a list read it from a text file, so there would have been tweets with dubious locations possibly including Easter Island, Christmas Island, Rockall, the Arctic (I remember those were on my list among some more sensible ones)

  2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Whose data is it?

    Twitter et al don't see this as your data, it's their data - they have no worries ... I'm off to the pub, yes I know it's early but they don't care.

  3. GnuTzu Bronze badge


    I'd like a tool that makes it appear if I'm randomly changing my location every 5 seconds by over 10 miles.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Chaff

      Look up the Pro version of XPrivacy, under "Settings" / "Fake Data", you can set (or look up) your own fake latitude / longitude / altitude with an option to "Randomize on boot". Then you can decide which apps see the fake data and which ones (if any) see your real location. Not _quite_ what you asked for, but it's pretty damn close. I just hope you _do_ have root.

  4. hellwig Silver badge

    That data is useless anyway, why keep it?

    What good is 5 or 10 year old location data (I'm assuming the first twitter iPhone app did this)?

    So many people move, change jobs, change doctors, this wouldn't be terribly practical to advertisers trying direct targeting. So, why does Twitter keep it around? Probably because they don't know what is and isn't valuable. Collect everything and see if someone wants it, what could possibly go wrong?

    1. John 104

      Re: That data is useless anyway, why keep it?

      Oh really?

      This is why the data isn't useless. The internet never dies and people never cease to dig as deep as they can to throw someone under the bus.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: That data is useless anyway, why keep it?

      It really depends what you want to do with the data. Knowing where someone lived or worked means one can try find some dirt from old neighbors and colleagues. Also, it give a sleaze ball an idea of who to talk to about where someone is currently working or living if for some reason that information is not readily available. If you have lived long enough you probably know a few people you really do not want showing up at your doorstep or office.

    3. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: That data is useless anyway, why keep it?

      "So many people move, change jobs, change doctors, this wouldn't be terribly practical to advertisers trying direct targeting."

      In the UK, the average person moves house every 23 years (and are unlikely to change doctors except when moving). They change jobs every 4-5 years. So 5 or 10 year old location data has a very high chance of showing your current home, doctor, lawyer, shops, and so on, and still a decent chance of knowing where you work. Given that Twitter only stopped attaching all this information 3 years ago, you have well over a 50% chance of it still being correct about pretty much everything.

      "So, why does Twitter keep it around?"

      It was attached to tweets when they were posted. Twitter aren't deliberately keeping it around, they just haven't bothered to make the effort to remove metadata from old tweets.

  5. Recaf

    You have to opt in

    Is it really a privacy issue when you have to actively CHOOSE to include your location with your tweets?

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: You have to opt in

      I think the point here is that it's old location data that is still being distributed, regardless of whether or not you are currently not opted-in.

      Personally I switch location off on the phone unless I'm using Maps - just to save battery life you understand, I'm not paranoid, whatever you may have heard. And who told you anyway?

  6. The Nazz Silver badge

    Other tools have been doing this for some time now.

    Just look amongst the 17-18 year olds :

    "oooh look, here's a selfie of me with my certificate having just passed my UK driving test".

    Complete with name, address and driver licence number from which it's easily possible to determine their birthday.

  7. John 104

    Simple Solution

    On the one hand, the data shouldn't be available like it is through the API.

    On the other, the simple solution to all of this is to not broadcast to the world every little detail of your life! We cant be completely anonymous if we use any digital services. However, we can be wise about it and not give our data away at every turn.

    Some of the examples above are real world scenarios. In the US, insurance companies use all sorts of meta data to set rates. Did you know your credit score goes into setting your rate? It's all out there, waiting to be abused to separate you from your rights and money.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never mind all that 'big data' stuff, you can use it to track and hunt down the pack of rabid twatters that gave you grief over a perfectly reasonable comment you made seven years ago...

    Or whoever it is that now lives in the flats and houses they rented at the time.

  9. IceC0ld Silver badge

    Twitter API's

    so, the API is 'reponsible'

    but are there settings that we, as users can access to make sure we don't attach too much, if any geolocation data ?

  10. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge



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