The sex joke and the geolocation challenge

On the wonderful, potentially dangerous urge to post something funny

You may have noticed that when it comes to OSINT and personal safety, I like to take an unorthodox approach. I don’t care about jargon too much, and I don’t care about appearing respectable (which sometimes gets me into trouble, but oh well).

What really matters to me are real life situations that we can all learn from. Please keep that in mind when it comes to the following geolocation challenge I recently posted:

I believe the first person to do it did so in about seven minutes:

Their method was wonderfully straightforward. They zoomed in on the background and noticed a tanning salon. Keeping in mind my location (which is posted in my Twitter bio), they found me easily:

Other people, however, were busy making doggy style jokes as they zeroed in on where I had been standing:

Why? Because I’d posted this earlier:

For people who have played my geolocation games before (if you haven’t yet, please try it out! It’s fun!), this was, to paraphrase South Park, a “raging clue.” As part of educating people on how their digital footprint can be scanned for information as to their location, and plenty of other information besides that:

Why did I zero in on Doggy Style Pet Spa? Well, if you know anything about my sense of humor, this was the perfect clue to post.

However, more importantly, I wanted to demonstrate how making a decision in the moment can impact your safety.

This was my first trip to Mikko Nordic Fine Foods (which are indeed fine, check them out if you’re in D.C.! And no, they’re not paying me for this endorsement), and I had initially wanted to make the challenge harder. This is why I posted a hard-to-geolocate photo with Swedish music lyrics earlier in the week (also because I was feeling my look, but that’s beside the point):

However, when my son and I arrived at Mikko, I immediately noticed Doggy Style and immediately wanted to snap a picture of it and post it.

I realized that my desire to sacrifice the potential difficulty of the challenge should itself be part of the challenge.

That’s because connecting us to people and institutions, social media provides us with a little thing called validation. We all have different ways of seeking validation, of course. I like to seek validation through making dumb jokes, for example. You may have a different way of seeking it.

The point is, we shouldn’t be posting anything on autopilot! Particularly when we consider the immediacy of social media! This habit can be hard to unlearn. We rarely save our personal funny pictures for later (reaction memes are a separate thing, to be honest — most people I know collect them). We want to post them NOW. By doing that, we can give away our current location.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal unless you have a stalker, a sensitive job, a court case you’re involved in, a mob hitman on your trail… As I often like to point out, when it comes to posting pictures, the best thing is to not be paranoid, it’s simply to be aware of what we’re doing and how that information can potentially be used.

Considering the fun/crazy life I lead, I’ve completely stopped posting pictures “in the moment,” unless I’m in a public place with the kind of friends that make me feel extra safe. And even then I’ll think about it twice. You don’t have to emulate me in everything, but I hope you give this basic safety measure some thought (and certainly pass it on to any vulnerable people you may know).

Oh, and if you have more pictures of pet spas named Doggy Style across the world/country, do send them in! I’m thinking of starting a collection.

If you learned something new today, please consider a $5 monthly subscription. It’s not much — and it can go a long way! Also, if you think you have an online stalker, do hit me up at nvantonova [at] gmail {dot} com, and let’s see if I can help.