Cybercasing the Joint: On the Privacy Implications of Geo-Tagging

TitleCybercasing the Joint: On the Privacy Implications of Geo-Tagging
Publication TypeTechnical Report
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsFriedland, G., & Sommer R.
Other Numbers2875

This article aims to raise awareness of a rapidly emerging privacy threat that we term cybercasing: leveraging geo-tagged information available online to mount real-world attacks. While users typically realize that sharing locations has some implications for their privacy, we provide evidence that many (i) are unaware of the full scope of the threat they face when doing so, and (ii) often do not even realize when they publish such information. The threat is elevated by recent developments that make systematic search for geo-located data and inference from multiple sources easier than ever before. In this paper, we summarize the state of geo-tagging; estimate the amount of geo-information available on several major sites, including YouTube, Twitter, and Craigslist; and examine its programmatic accessibility through public APIs. We then present a set of scenarios demonstrating how easy it is to correlate geo-tagged data with corresponding publicly-available information for compromising a victim’s privacy. We were, e.g., able to find private addresses of celebrities as well as the origins of otherwise anonymized Craigslist postings. We argue that our community needs to shape the further course of geo-location technology for better protecting users from such consequences.This technical report is a pre-print of a publication, appearing at the Fifth USENIX Workshop on Hot Topics in Security (HotSec '10 - at the 19th USENIX Security Symposium, Washington, D.C. The conference paper is available


This work was partially supported by funding provided through the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency University Research Initiatives program (NGA NURI # HM11582-10-1-2008). Additional support was provided by funding provided to ICSI though National Science Foundation grant CNS: 0905631 ("Invigorating Empirical Network Research via Mediated Trace Analysis"). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors or originators and do not necessarily reflect the views of NGA or of the National Science Foundation.

Bibliographic Notes

ICSI Technical Report TR-10-005

Abbreviated Authors

G. Friedland and R. Sommer

ICSI Research Group

Networking and Security

ICSI Publication Type

Technical Report