One Twitter user wrote cheerfully “I'm at home sweet home <3.” Another tweeted “last day at home.” Yet another proclaimed "home at last!!"
Such mundane social media updates might appear in anyone's Twitter feed. But these updates, along with dozens of others, showed up Thursday morning on a new website that also displayed a possible photo of the users' houses.
The site, WeKnowYourHouse.com, which launched Sunday, aggregates tweets by users who write about being home and sifts through those posts to find ones that also include users' location data. With those two pieces of information, which are publicly available, the site uses Google Streetview to post an image of what may be the person's home. It does the same thing for users of Foursquare and Instagram.
The tech site Gizmodo called the site “creepy as hell.”
But the site's creators, who declined to be identified, describe the site as a “social networking privacy experiment" aimed at raising awareness about how posting about being at home can pose real privacy and security risks.
Twitter users can prevent their location data from being posted by unchecking a box under "Settings > Accounts."
"In a connected society like today, people share way too much about themselves, which has never been a good thing," the site's creators said in an e-mail.
"The site was created to show its really dumb to check in at home, or say you're at home with locations enabled," they added. "People need to understand this, whether they like it or not, and a site of this nature attracts attention and gets results."
Though they consider their site to be a public service, the site's creators admit they initially went too far. When it first launched, they left users' full Twitter handles and street addresses visible. After re-launching on Thursday, the site now partially censors that information, and only displays information from the past hour before deleting it to protect the users privacy, according to its creators.
WeKnowYourHouse.com is not the only site drawing attention to the security risks of over-sharing. The website “PleaseRobMe.com” uses similar techniques, but to do the opposite: to show when you're not at home.
Its goal is to remind users of the potential dangers of posting about being away from home by aggregating location check-ins to create a list of empty homes that could be "new opportunities" for bank robbers.
The fact that people share too much about themselves on social media isn't new. But the possible risks of doing so generated fresh headlines last week when the daughter of PC magnate Michael Dell posted a photo of her brother on the family jet.
The picture drew attention to how Alexa Dell often detailed her every move on Twitter, even broadcasting the exact time, date, location of her family. Her Twitter account was later shut down.
One security expert said the incident demonstrated how Twitter, in particular, raises concerns by instantly broadcasting users’ location information.
“You get that GPS location of exactly where you are,” Jason Thorsett, the director of operations at bodyguard firm Custom Protective Services, told told BusinessWeek. “It’s just insane."