Twitter Reveals Geolocation-Based Opt-in Credentials

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Twitter has switched on its long awaited location-sharing feature and made the service opt-in, tagging users’ tweets based on where they are tweeting from and pointing the way forward for privacy strategies

Twitter yesterday switched on its long awaited location-sharing feature and made the service opt-in.

Twitter’s geolocation feature tags users’ tweets based on where they are tweeting from. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and his team believe this additional layer of context will make Twitter a richer network.

Stone gave an example of why this new feature might be useful: “Let’s say I’m at my office and I hear a loud boom. It sounded serious, so I search Twitter for “boom.” Among the first results could be someone who tweeted “Boom go the fireworks!” This could be anywhere in the world. However, if that person had activated the new tweet location feature then the neighbourhood data under the tweet would read, “SoMa.” Now I know it’s just fireworks going off in my neighbourhood.”

The cool technology integration users get to see is that the key tweet word “SoMa” is linked to a Google map to let users explore the area some more. The point is that Twitter can now not only help its roughly 70 million users discuss what is happening, but where.

This is a concept that will be explored to the hilt at South-by-Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas this coming week. ReadWriteWeb‘s Marshall Kirkpatrick said at least 25 companies will be making location-related announcements at SXSW this week.

Tweet by location works for Mozilla Firefox 3.5 and Google Chrome on Windows. To use the tool with older versions of these web browsers, users will have to download the not-yet-defunct Google Gears app.

To get started, users may navigate to the How to Tweet Your Location Web page on Twitter and enable “Add a location to your tweets” in Twitter’s account settings page. Twitter client applications will then be able to tag a tweet with exact location.

To tweet with location on a per-tweet basis after Location has been enabled, users must click the crosshair icon below the update box on the left. Users will then be asked to let Firefox “Remember Your Location.” Double check to make sure “Remember for this site” box is checked and click “Share Location”.

Location will then show below the update box. Users who want to turn this off can click the “x” next to their location. This turns off Tweet With Your Location on a per-Tweet basis. Location will not be shown until users re-enable it by clicking the crosshair icon.

To disable Tweet With Your Location entirely, users must go back into accounts setting and uncheck the Add a location to your tweets box. Users may also delete specific tweets with location data, or remove all location data from all of your tweets by clicking the “delete all location data” button on the settings page.

This can take up to 30 minutes, but note that it does not guarantee the information will be removed from all third-party application’s copies of the data or results from search engines such as Google or Microsoft Bing.

The way Twitter has done this should endear it to privacy hounds that get nervous about location-sharing services. Google recently discussed this issue – the creepy factor associated with location-based services – in detail with eWEEK.

Facebook meanwhile is set to launch its own location-sharing service for its 400 million users. The leading social network would do well to follow Twitter’s flexible approach to location.

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