Creepy or Convenient? Apps for Tracking, Keeping Tabs

VIDEO: Online Photos May Give Away Your Privacy
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Facebook stalkers, your lives just got a whole lot easier.

In case Facebook pages and Twitter streams don't give you enough of a glimpse into other people's lives, several new websites and applications make it even easier to track and keep tabs on friends (and, in some cases, strangers too).

Using status updates, location information in photos and the so-called signature in your cell phone's BlueTooth, Web developers and entrepreneurs are finding ever-smarter and higher-tech ways of connecting you to the world.

But are they more convenient? Or just too creepy for comfort? Take a look at a few examples below and decide for yourself.

Track Anyone With Twitter, Flickr Photos

The developer of this application clearly isn't hiding his feelings on the subject.

Creepy (yes, that's the app's name) can track a person's location on a map using photos uploaded to Twitter or Flickr.

You just download the application and then type in the Twitter handle or Flickr I.D. of the person you want to track. The app automatically searches the account for pictures tagged with geodata and then displays the locations on a map.

Let's say you frequently use Twitter or Flickr to share photos of your kids at home. With Creepy, a stranger could easily look up your name and then figure out where you live.

Yiannis Kakavas, a 27-year-old information security student in Germany, said he built the Web application as a side project to wake people up about the issue.

"I thought that if I could show people that it was so simple to write an app that [tracks people with photos] people will think twice," he said.

Most cameras and video recorders don't instantly attach location data (or geographic coordinates) to photos and videos. But some smartphones, such as the iPhone and Android phones, automatically embed latitude and longitude at which the picture was taken in each photo's metadata.

While security experts often worry about the privacy issues raised by location information, too many people don't protect themselves, Kakavas said. He said he hopes his app encourages people to disable the geotag function in their phones and cameras or share geotagged pictures more carefully.

Last year, a team of security analysts launched a similar website called ICanStalkU.com. It automatically scans Twitter for images with location data and then translates those geographic coordinates into actual street addresses or place names.

Like Kakavas, the researchers launched the website to raise awaress, but where their site displays a real-time stream of all the tweets with location information, Creepy allows users actually to search for a specific person.

Find Friends With Your Cell Phone's Radio Signal

To the list of tools an old flame could use to track you, here's one more: your cell phone's radio signal.

Last week, the Los Angeles, Calif.-based startup NeuAer won the "Best Tech" prize at the Launch Conference in San Francisco for a system that lets people share their location and track the location of others through their cellphones' BlueTooth signals.

Called ToothTag, the technology uses the radio signals associated with a person's cell phone (WiFi, BlueTooth, GPS and eventually Near-Field Communications) as digital signatures. ToothTag is available now for Android phones and the company is working on an iPhone version.

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