Need a new identity? Just steal someone else's

Wheretheladies.at highlights social networking security and privacy fears.

An opportunistic new website by the name of Wheretheladies.at should serve as a wake-up call to Foursquare and other social network users about the potential risks to their privacy and security -- especially those who are crazy enough to publish such personal details as their home address.

Wheretheladies.at uses publicly available information posted on social networking site Foursquare to find locations where a number of women are gathering -- from nightclubs to coffee shops. When it finds there's a correlation among a number of female Foursquare users it shows where they are and displays their Foursquare profile pictures so would-be stalkers -- sorry admirers -- can decide if it's worth turning up to 'meet' them.

It also sends the news out over a Twitter feed, for instance: "Bunch of ladies in yoga pants at The New Nail on Chestnut. They are talking about needing to find a man. Jackpot." Indeed.

I've written before about some of the potential risks with Foursquare, the social networking phenomenon adding 100,000 new subscribers every week, which encourages users to "check in" their location in order to win virtual badges. Users have the option of their precise location being shown on a Google map with an accuracy of a few feet, based on Foursquare's knowledge of their phone's co-ordinates via its GPS signal.

But while Wheretheladies.at may raise some eyebrows among women who didn't realise they were making quite so much information about themselves available to just anyone, what it actually highlights are the less obvious privacy and security risks of social networking sites in general.

Many Foursquare users opt to link their account with other sites such as Facebook or Twitter. This is particularly risky, because it makes it likely that even if you are careful about how much you give away on one site, anyone scanning two or three of them might find some worrying details about you and your movements unless you are very careful. Adjusting the privacy settings so that they work in concert across more than one social networking site requires a degree in astrophysics as well as a great deal of patience.

By way of illustration, I searched Foursquare for people who had "checked in" their home address -- telling the world exactly where they live and also displaying it on a handy map. I soon found an attractive 20-something year-old advertising agency executive, who had posted the address of her London flat. She had also "checked in" at her workplace, so I also knew where she worked and for whom.

She hadn't posted her full name on Foursquare, but I quickly found that on her Facebook page, along with her date of birth, which University she went to and what she studied. I also found that she likes house and trance music, her favourite film is Sex and the City 2 and she watches Louis Theroux and Come Dine With Me on telly.

I know from her Twitter feed about the trip she made to Paris for a couple of days last week, and where she goes to gym. I know, in fact, what she eats for breakfast, which bus she takes to work and when she is running late. I know that today she's at home in bed, with a heavy cold. Should I have some flowers delivered, or perhaps some cough medicine?

ID theft: not your dad's smash and grab

It's no laughing matter: identity theft is on the rise. It costs the British economy an estimated £1.7bn a year, with the number of Brits falling victim to identity theft jumping 23 per cent in the first quarter of this year alone, according to fraud prevention service CIFAS.

One factor behind the rise in ID theft is known to be the amount of personal information shared on social networking sites. As James Jones, consumer education manager at information services firm Experian puts it, "There is a huge disconnect between the privacy we crave and the information we give away on social networks. It's hardly surprising that identity fraudsters have been cashing in."

Fraudsters are still using more traditional techniques of scamming your identity such as going through your rubbish looking for bank statements and the like, which is another reason not to publish your address on any social networking sites like Foursquare.

So what does Foursquare have to say about all this? Here's what their spokeswoman told me:

We know that information related to location is more sensitive than a lot of other information shared through social networks, which is why we feel it's extremely important for our users to understand exactly where their information is being shared, and the implications of that sharing.

We never share a user's real-time check-in information with anyone that they haven't accepted as a Foursquare friend, and all of our sharing features can be opted into or opted out of. A user's location is never automatically shared -- they need to choose to check in when they're at a particular venue, and when they check in they can decide whether or not they want to tell their friends where they are, and whether or not they'd like to publish this information to Facebook or Twitter if they've chosen to link those accounts to their Foursquare account.

This summer, we launched some changes to our sharing settings to give users even more control over how they share their check-ins, and we posted some resources to further educate users on sharing through foursquare. We encourage all users to check their settings regularly to ensure that they're comfortable with where they're posting check-ins, and who can view that information.

You can access our privacy-related resources at http://foursquare.com/privacy. You'll find an overview of how we approach privacy/sharing on that page, along with a link to a detailed grid on our privacy settings and our privacy policy. Users with specific concerns can also contact privacy@foursquare.com.

Which is all well and good. But it seems that many users simply haven't understood the implications of their use of Foursquare and other social networking sites. The knowledge I easily found in a few minutes about one particular advertising agency exec could enable me to track her movements day and night to within a few feet, and could put her at a high risk of an identity theft attack or worse.

At the very least, it shows that knowing Wheretheladies.at is just the start.

Jason Stamper is NS technology correspondent and editor of Computer Business Review.

Jason Stamper is editor of Computer Business Review

Steve Garry
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The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism