Japanese Columnist Stalks People To Show How Twitter Makes You A Target

In an unnerving experiment, a Japanese writer tracked down three people in a crowded region of Japan – all because of the tweets they sent.

Media outlet Omocoro sent one of their writers Sebuyama into the crowds of Shibuya to see if he could locate three individuals based on their tweets.

They chose Shibuya because of its dense crowds – it’s said that more than 45,000 people cross its major intersection every 30 minutes. Because of this, and its many restaurants and stores, Shibuya is one of the most checked-in locations in the world on Foursquare.

Aisajin reports that Sebuyama was armed with only a smartphone amid hundreds of thousands of Japanese locals and tourists in Shibuya.

He chose three targets to try and pick out of the massive crowds based on a few criteria:

  • They must have tweeted “Shibuya nau (now in Shibuya)” recently
  • They must have used a real photo of themselves on their Twitter profile, which is actually not that common in Japan
  • They must be tweeting their exact location in Shibuya, such as which restaurant or shop they visited

Using these three factors, Sebuyama started his stalker-style experiment. He traversed the streets of Shibuya, following the digital trail of breadcrumbs left by his victims.

After searching for only a little while, he ended up finding two of three of his “victims”. The first managed to escape his hunt, as she moved from shop to shop too quickly for him to catch her.

He was able to identify his two successful catches by the photos they posted of their lunch, iconic buildings and landmarks they tweeted about seeing, and physical descriptions pieced together based on their tweets. The third victim had also linked up Foursquare to his Twitter account, which made him the easiest prey.

Upon catching up with his victims, Sebuyama addressed them by their Twitter names and informed them of what they had for lunch earlier that day – no doubt quite a shock to the innocent shoppers.

It’s easy to draw parallels from this quirky story to more serious issues of privacy online. Being aware of what you’re tweeting and who is listening is important in a world where we are increasingly vulnerable to prying eyes.

Those shoppers in Shibuya were just lucky that their stalker was an innocent – if a bit off-kilter – writer!