How Creepy is Geo-Location App ‘Creepy’?

Ever wonder what an app named ‘Creepy’ might do? Pinpoint and share your location based on geographical data embedded in your pictures on sites like Flickr, Foursquare and Twitter – how creepy is that?

Ever wonder what an app named ‘Creepy’ might do?  Pinpoint and share your location based on geographical data embedded in your pictures on sites like Flickr, Foursquare and Twitter – how creepy, or not, is that?

Still in its early stages, a new app called Creepy is already making major waves in privacy circles.

That’s because the app allows users to quickly pinpoint a person’s exact location just by typing in that person’s Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter or Flickr username on the app and hitting the ‘Geolocate Target’ button.

Creepy uses the APIs of the social networking site you enter to access whatever photos or tweets have been published by the person you’re searching for.  It then analyzes all the geographic information available online and delivers a report to you, the user, in the form of a map that displays the location(s) where the targeted person posted every geo-tagged tweet and shared image.

Another “creep” factor of the new app is the manner by which it collects its data.

Most social network users probably don’t realize that whenever they click their smartphone or camera and share the photo on a social networking site, those sites, like Flickr, Yfrog and Twitpic, automatically record the location in the image’s EXIF data.  Creepy just takes the next step of using the APIs to scan that data and display it on an easy-to-read map.

Less skeptical users would argue the location of a single photo doesn’t reveal a threatening level of private information. But if you are a prolific photo sharer, your life becomes more out there, in the form of clusters of dots on Creepy that are likely your house, office or favorite restaurant.

A detailed analysis by the UK-based technology blog Thinq found the app is surprisingly, and perhaps alarmingly, effective, even as it is still being developed.

Also surprising is the reasoning the app’s creator, 26-year old Yiannis Kakavas, gives to justify the need for such an app:  to warn users about privacy issues and geo-location tools.

“I wanted to stress how ‘easy’ it is to aggregate all the seemingly small and innocent pieces of data people are sharing into a ‘larger picture’ that potentially gives away information that users wouldn’t think of sharing,” Kakavas told Thinq.  “I think that sometimes it is worth ‘scaring’ people into being more careful on how much they share online.”

Kakavas, a German graduate student, also sees his app in another vein, as a security tool.

“I wanted to create a tool for social engineers to help with information gathering,” he explained. “I believe Creepy can be of real use to security analysts performing penetration testing for the initial process of gathering information about the ‘targets’ — information that can be used later for a number of purposes.”

Creepy is currently available as a software package to download for Windows and Linux operating systems. A version for Mac OS X is reportedly soon to come.