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Those who invented applications like geo-tagging and timeline for the various social media services available to us surely never intended that these features should endanger the lives of people.

foursquare-checkin1However, more and more people are now becoming aware of the fact that these services can pose considerable danger if the information conveyed by them ends up in the hands of the wrong people.

A case in point is the feature of geotagging, which is commonly used when uploading photographs on Facebook and checking in on Foursquare.

When a simple photograph taken on a smartphone is posted on a social networking site, it gives out a lot of information, including the location of the person.

Add to this the fact that some people have huge “friend” circles on sites like Facebook. Often the user may not even have met many of these “friends” and may be unknowingly letting out information about himself or his family to the wrong people, who could misuse it.

A real life example of how this happens was illustrated in 2007 when four US Army helicopters were destroyed in Iraq after geotagged photos were posted on the Internet.

Facebook will soon introduce the Timeline feature worldwide. This feature will also make it possible for enemy forces to figure out the location and route to be taken by allied armed forces, thus endangering their mission.

Most of these applications allow users to decide who should or should not see their photos and other information. It is of extreme importance that a user decides wisely, who should be allowed into their inner circles and have access to information about them and their families.

Staff Sgt. Dale Sweetnam, of the Online and Social Media Division of the US Army says, “A good rule of thumb when using location-based social networking applications is do not become friends with someone if you haven’t met them in person.”

This warning could apply equally well to civilians as well. As technology continues to advance and make life easier, it also adds some unforeseen dangers to one’s life.