Is live-sharing your location always bad?
I recently created a Where’s Will Now page. That page contains an embedded map. When I manually switch on live-logging, the RideWithGPS app on my phone will update that map, and anyone looking at it will be able to see my location. Some will think that in doing so I completely gave up my privacy. To a small degree they’ll be correct, but this warrants a deeper look.
Do you update social media during a ride? Especially when cycling a longer, well-known route, such as the C2C, the Trans Pennine Trail, The Way Of The Roses, Devon Coast To Coast and other similar routes, it’s common for people to chat on social media. A comment like “Tired now, and stopping for lunch at <insert name here> café” tells the world exactly where you are, and from that point, anyone who’s interested can very easily work out where you will be for the rest of the day. That is, if you don’t save them the trouble, by making more updates while you’re riding.
During my Cheshire Ring ride, we were mostly following canals, or well-known cycle routes, like parts of the Trans Pennine Trail. Once any one of us posted a photo, or just sent a tweet of where we were, anyone could have figured out where we’d be next. Indeed, someone I only knew from Twitter, Jon, found us in central Manchester, based on us taking a well-known route. For the record, Jon wasn’t a stalker – we agreed to meet up beforehand. I also live-shared my location, using an app called Glympse, and then tweeted the link.
So is live-sharing good?
This isn’t a simple yes/no answer. Sometimes live-sharing can be good, but there are many occasions where it can be bad. For example, if you left an abusive partner, very recently or even a longer time ago, I’d suggest you never publicly share your location. That is, not via live-sharing, and not even via a tweet like “Fantastic food at <insert restaurant name here>!” Equally, if you often end up in arguments with potentially violent people on the Internet, do you really want them to know exactly where to find you?
Advice for women
If you’re a woman, my advice is simple: NEVER publicly live-share your location, but do live-share it with close and trusted friends. Especially when walking home at night! Also, when on a bike ride, by all means, take lots of pics, and do share them, but only much later. For example, if it’s a day-long ride, consider only sharing those pics when the ride is done. If cycle touring, consider waiting at least a day before sharing photos and messages that could reveal your location. And I’m genuinely very sorry that we live in a world where you need to be that aware of your personal safety.
I almost always wild camp. Now think about it: do you want the world to know exactly where you’ll be lying asleep in your tent? If you’re going to live-share your location, then stop doing so well before you reach your camping spot. And if you forgot, keep cycling past that spot, then turn off live-sharing 4 or 5 miles down the road, before returning to your camping spot. By all means, feel free to turn live-logging back on once you’re all packed up the next morning, but never broadcast where you’ll be sleeping.
We all leak personal data practically on a daily basis. Some of us are haemorrhaging data! You know those innocent and fun quizzes you do on the internet, to see what kind of unicorn you’d be (or some equally silly objective)? Many of those are simply data harvesters, and include questions like “What song was Nr 1 on the day you were born?” and “What was your first car?” In case you didn’t realise, the first question can be used to determine your birthdate, and the second question is commonly used as a security question when resetting your password.
We go through life claiming to care about our privacy, yet we install insidious apps like Tik Tok, which harvest huge swathes of our personal information. Compared to that, turning on live-logging at set times to me seems a far better option. Besides, on social media I will usually be posting about my adventure anyway, so people will be able to see, in real time, where I am.
The map below is RideWithGPS’ live demo of their live-logging functionality. As you can see, the RideWithGPS app can even share the photos I take along the way.