Brightkite – Want to REALLY be found?

Right on the heels of my Local Tweeps post, I bring you Brightkite! Another Twitter application that really let’s freaks people in Twitterverse and elsewhere find you.

Here is all the wonderful things Brightkite can do for you. Behold! A few cut & paste pics of the front of Brightkite explaining what it does for you:

Stuff you can use Brightkite for

True to form, it allows you to find others near wheresoever you are currently using your Brightkite acct. from.

Yes, you can post photos on here.

Yes, you can also find places where others have visited before. But for all it’s searchable versatility, Brightkite’s easy interface gets easily overshadowed by the very noticeable fact that it seems to give away so much of your own information as well. Unintentionally of course.

How? Ask me about my paranoid intuition and low prices!

Let’s get started on this magical adventure called Brightkite, shall we?

What Does Brightkite Look Like?

So for whatever reason, Brightkite knows where ever you are in the world and I’m guessing it’s reading your ISP#. Or tracking you by GPS? Because the front page lists whatever  town’s name automatically from the computer terminal  on it like so. See the pic below?

Brightkites front page

Brightkite's front page

Now it lists a bunch of people within range of where my computer terminal is located. And BTW I don’t even have a Brightkite account as of this writing. Now I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that this is how it works for the phone application too:

Oh wow, I was right! This dude’s on my Twitter and tweeting this photo he took from his iPhone on vacation. If I was a robber, I’d totally break into his house because now I know he’s not home! For a few days! Is that enough time? Sweet…I”m kidding! I’m no felon! Heh.

FYI, according to Brightkite you don’t need fancy phones for this, since any ol’ cell phone will do. Just look on the first page under the iPhone app.

So I’m gonna go ahead and click on one of the folks on the front page list, (remember it shows people local to you) and select some random dude named Rayga:

And it tracks your movements in real time. Which is a little creepy from a safety concern.

Here, we can see his driving habits; what highways/ routes he normally takes, what he looks like, his name, his gender, and other social bookmarking profiles he has such as his Facebook , Last FM and Twitter profiles. Based on this scant information I can easily follow him around if I was a stalker, though I suspect Rayga doesn’t have that problem as much? Good thing he’s not the hot chick with big tits that rejected you last week and you hold a grudge against, eh                        Mr. Psycho Stalker?

What, you don’t think tracking him is too easy? Alright, let’s take a deeper look at the rest of his profile by scrolling down further:

So now I know where he goes on a ritual basis, which major highways he normally takes.

Now I also know his car has a white leather (or pleather) interior with a moonroof and it looks like in the picture above. I suppose some people can recognize the make and model of this car but i’m no gung-ho car nut!

I also know what he looks like up close in portrait view.  I know that he went to South Valley Stream, NY twelve days ago. No, I’m not a cop.

Now let’s click on the Places tab to really get an idea of Rayga‘s travel’s:

You don’t need to be a highly trained CIA spook to profile people anymore!

Sensitive Information

What’s the most frightening thing I’m noticing? It’s that Rayga just volunteered such highly sensitive information as to which bank he most likely has an account at? Supposing if I was a con artist, I could call up that bank branch with his SSN#, and when they ask when was the last time I made a deposit I’d tell them which branch and when, just like in the picture above. Then I could get my hands on his tasty bank account $$$$.

And from further delving into his Brightkite posts, I also know that Rayga has an affinity for Starbucks, cars (he traveled to the Auto Show), and  other local cafes (Panera – This one I recognize because I’ve been to it before- yikes!)

And in case you didn’t get that, you click on the @ Panera Bread under the photo and this pops up, complete with address and Google Map:

However, it does give you the option of setting Privacy at this place as it states under the Check In Here button at the top right corner, as you can see. I’m guessing ol’ Rayga doesn’t pay no mind to this feature. But if you can privatize it, then what is the point of Brightkite anyways? Well, you can set it to only friends watching it so I guess that answers the question.

So photos aside, right now let’s click on his Friends tab:

Sure Rayga voluntarily gave up a lot of sensitive info, but what about his friends? Here they are on his list above.

My rudimentary preconception was that Brightkite pulls all your tweets and places them here, but that is not true. In fact, after clicking on many other Brightkite user profiles you see not all of them have Twitter at all.  Or any of them, really. Some of them state their Facebook profiles or Last Fm profiles, with no Twitter profile whatsoever. And maybe there’s no need to even bring Twitter into this, because Brightkite lists short SMS texts the same way so there’s no need for it.

HOWEVER, there’s a blog post by Brightkite about how Twitter posts are now supported into the Brightkite wall. So you can voluntarily let Brightkite users in on all of your Twitter posts by your own hand. Isn’t that precious?

Anyhoo, let’s click on that last friend he has on the list, that JNez as example:

This is what we’ve got: On the afternoon of April 27th, JNez spent it at the corner of Riverside Dr. and W 76th st, by some kind of a weeping willow tree. So if I was stalking him, this would take the guesswork out of it.

Also, another fella by the moniker of rbtlowe also spent some time there at that Riverside address:

But if you notice on the list of Places, it says Add to Placemarks which is what I’m guessing this dude did. So if a person clicks on Add to Placemarks then it adds this Riverside Dr placemark into your list of Places so people know where you’re currently traveling.

Safety Concerns

I just don’t see how Brightkite is helpful as it is a major invasion of privacy. Ok, so you ask your pal to meet up with you but you keep texting him and he’s kind of a moron, and can’t find the big yellow billboard to meet you at. So if you both had this application on your phones I guess it would work. But um, you can also call him and say “I’m across the street/ the ONLY billboard around/hang on; sending photo to your phone/ you’re a moron!”

And what of the safety factor? I even saw some dude’s Places list had several ATM listings! Now what if I was a habitual robber? I’d know what wimp I can tackle where, and scope out the place beforehand for any signs of desolation (empty adjacent lots). What? No one around? Oh good! That guy who just withdrew the 6 $20.00 bills from the ATM? Yea, he’s kinda smaller than me. I can take him. No one around on a late Sat. night? Even better, doobee-doobee-doo…

Also, I have another Follower on my Twitter feed that posted a photo of him and his kids on Brightkite, and I’m wondering if he has any concerns about it. Because the photo looked like it was taken in someone’s backyard, and it lists the address of where they were when it was taken. For security purposes, I’m not showing the picture. From a safety standpoint, I don’t think I’d have done the same if I had kids. I mean, that to me seems like a great way to announce to pedo’s about where to go to snatch my kids from me. And it seems to be in one of those places where people leave their doors open because it’s ‘so safe’. Sweet Jebus! I wonder if he also carries a shotgun like everyone seems to be doing?

Let’s be plenty honest. Most kids do not think too deeply about pre-cautionary safety concerns because they’re too in the moment and/ or can’t fathom that anybody can hack their way so deeply into secure lines. Or sadly, some don’t need to try too hard. Dangers are out there all around us. Of course giving away too much info is everyone’s personal responsibility, as is not accidetally posting photos with license plates/ house numbers/ house addresses/ license information or that of your pals. Or your teenager posting a photo of the local Taco Bell her and her friends usually hang out at. (remember BK shows the addresses)

But the responsibility is ours when it comes to using every single social network  in cyberspace, not just Brightkite, and also applications on our cell phones. If you have children, I highly urge you to take precautions and make them think twice about what info they post. They may be showing more info than they think is important to criminals.

So SuperMunk, are there any better helpful uses for Brightkite?

Glad you asked!

Apparently, it is very good for getting businesses noticed.

Getting Businesses Noticed

For example! I did see an interesting pic on my hometown listing and showed this happy social gathering:

So I clicked on it and it took me to jchiar‘s profile where it displayed this picture in full detail:

So if I wanted to go to this Asian cuisine restaurant near me now I’m aware of the address of the Sweet Mandarin. (239 N Main Ste, Sayville, NY) Great for me, cuz I’m always on the lookout for pan-Asian food establishments especially out here where they are low in demand. So, hooray, it serves business needs. But now I know where I can hit up this dude if I ever go in there. Luckily I’m not ‘stalking’ him either, yeesh!

Setting Up A Brightkite Wall

For businesses, Brightkite allows you to set up what’s called a ‘Wall’. The wall is basically a live feed of all updates regarding the establishment you enter. So like, Joe Schmoe’s Bar (type address in Search bar) and puts up a real time list of every announcement to date, including every single person who ‘checked in‘ in or nearby that particular address.

Here’s how else it serves businesses: On their blog, I pulled up this post that talks about how Brightkite was used to display on a flat screen monitor at a business called The Mattress Factory (an art museum in Pittsburgh) and they used BK to set up a ‘wall’ so the museum’s guests could use it to visually interact via texts and it would show up on the museum’s big ol’ flat screen tv. Where everyone can see it. Remember now, you make the choice to join into their ‘wall’.

And In Summation…

It seems great for business needs, so all customers can get going spreading the buzz about your business. All Brightkite users can Add To Placemarks the business addres into their Places list and everybody can find it in the Search query.

You can set it to show only posts by Everybody / Me & friends / Only Me.

For every place you ‘Check In At‘ you can set it to Add to placemarks or to  Privacy at this place.

My only concern with Brightkite is it’s black & white security settings. From what I understand, either you can either set it to strangers seeing ALL your private info, or none of it (which renders it useless)? Quite a pickle; I’m still in doubts over this.

So to sum up. Brightkite tells the whole world where you can be found at various places every single day, complete with photos that you yourself supply! It can be integrated into other social bookmarking applications such as Twitter and Facebook, it can also show detail specific Google Maps of where you’re currently at, and allow you post photos of where you are.  These photos complete with address are great ways for spreading the word about hip and happeing places you always wanted to venture out to, but had doubts about making the long journey if you don’t see what you like. So now you can!

For personal uses I find it is disastrously invasive but, for business related activities it’s all peaches and cream. I may even set up my own wall for my business! So enjoy; lemme know how it goes. No seriously, I’m curious!

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One response to “Brightkite – Want to REALLY be found?

  1. Pingback: How I Analyze Spam « Supermunk’s Blog

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