Google Lens, art + a damn good spy novel
Yes, that mural behind you will get you geolocated as surely as a landmark
The other day, I asked my followers to tell me where I was sitting as I read Alma Katsu’s wonderful Red Widow (more on the book below):
The first correct answer that I saw came in at about ten minutes, from Bruce:
Others quickly followed Bruce down a similar path, including those people who didn’t use Google Lens specifically:
As you can see, you don’t *need* a well-known or even specific landmark in order to be geolocated. A distinctive enough work of art can do the job as well. Again, this is something to keep in mind as you’re out on the town — even when you’re not in your home city (we had traveled to Richmond from D.C., and of course I couldn’t resist doing a challenge there).
However, not everyone had great luck with Google Lens specifically:
It may have depended on the cropping, but I didn’t have any luck with Google Lens either. Before I posted the challenge, I used several version of the cropped mural to see if Google Lens would pick it up, but it did not. I had the feeling that someone else would get it quickly enough, though.
This reminded me of the fact that technology performance can be uneven. This is actually useful to remember if you’re testing a photo, seeing if it can be geolocated easily. It might not seem that easy to you, but someone else, someone like Bruce above, for example, can still do it in 10 minutes. And that, of course, is something to remember when you consider your digital footprint.
As an aside, I did have some questions about my choice of clothing too. As Gustav, who follows my public Instagram, noted, the outfit was also a clue:
Here is the earlier Instagram post which I had put up (yes, this was all planned out! Red boots for red widow! 🤘🏻):
I did this because a) Alma’s new book is frankly awesome, and b) it’s a good reminder that any stalker or foreign intelligence creep worth their salt is going to follow you across multiple platforms and cross-reference your information. It’s just how it is. And these people are only going to get more sophisticatd.
Because the outfit was so distinctive, I wanted to make a note of it:
I shop at Til You Collapse regularly, and frequently make public posts featuring their awesome clothing:
They’re not a huge brand, and their stuff is exceedingly well-made, so why not promote it?
However, as previously noted in this report, the stuff we own can and does present a security risk sometimes.
Why? Well, just consider the fact how often people will re-use passwords. If someone has your e-mail, they can easily look up any of the old passwords you’ve used, compromised by security breaches. And if they know where you shop, they can easily try to access your information through an online shopping site. Boom, a bunch of useful information about you is suddenly accessible to them (and it can include stored credit card data).
Like a lot of people, I like to be able to promote the stuff I love! But it is always good to be aware of the potential implications of doing it. The example I cite above is just ONE possible danger of supporting brands online, and I will discuss more in upcoming reports.
Finally, I really hope that those of you who are into well-written spy dramas that don’t prop themselves up via typical cliches, I really hope you pick up Red Widow. No, Alma didn’t pay me to say this. Her publisher didn’t either.
I wanted to bring this book to your attention, because I usually hate reading modern novels involving spies, Russians, and Russian spies. They can just be so trite. Alma, however, is a fantastic writer, a former fed herself, and just a damn good woman who understands the challenges of being a woman in a macho environment, which means that Red Widow has a fresh and exciting angle on the genre.
It was fun to run around Richmond with a spy novel tucked under my arm, considering just how many unhinged people claim I am a spy online (newsflash: I couldn’t spy my way out of a paper bag). Sometimes, you have to lean into a cliché to expos how stupid it is.
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