Location-Based Social Networks

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Location-Based Social Networks
Declan Traynor University of Ulster, UK Kevin Curran University of Ulster, UK

Chapter 15

ABSTRACT
The ability to gather and manipulate real world contextual data, such as user location, in modern software systems presents opportunities for new and exciting application areas. A key focus among those working in the area of Location-Based services today has been the creation of social networks which allow mobile device users to exchange details of their personal location as a key point of interaction. While the initial interest in these services has been exceptionally high, they are plagued by the same challenges as all Location Based services, regarding the privacy and security of users and their data. This chapter aims to investigate the area of Location-Based Social Networks (LBSNs), with a view to documenting how they contribute to a new form of expertise due to the now accurate knowledge of where people are actually located at a moment in time.

INTRODUCTION
Location-Based Social Networks (LBSN) leverage the power and high adoption rate of modern mobile devices to provide applications and services which allow users to share and discuss the real-world places they visit, as a part of their virtual interactions (Curran et al, 2011). The ever-increasing uptake in the use of the internet and online social networks, supported by the capabilities of today’s ‘smart’ mobile devices, has brought with it a host of new possibilities for user interaction. Of these, ‘location sharing’ among users has undoubtedly become the feature ‘du jour’ when it comes to DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1981-4.ch015

building social networking services. The focus placed on location sharing varies from service to service, with some such as Twitter and Facebook providing such features as non-essential extras and others, such as Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and Google Latitude making the concept of social location sharing central to the user experience. The basic premise of most modern LBSNs is quite simple. Mobile device users interact with and application in order to make their current location known on the network. Details of a user’s location can be gained in one of two ways: either manually - via an SMS text message sent by the user or by the user plotting their location on a map - or,

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Location-Based Social Networks

as is becoming more popular, the mobile application can automatically determine a user’s current location by leveraging the power of a number of location determination technologies (Furey et al., 2008; Furey et al., 2011). In most modern LBSNs, the process of sharing your current location (regardless of how this is determined) has become known as ‘checking in’. Checking in is seen as the central user activity in addition to viewing other users’ locations, discussing locations visited, and so on. Depending on the service, a user’s shared location information can be viewed by a subset of people (e.g only ‘friends’ of the user) subscribing to the service or by anyone on the social network who is determined to be within a certain vicinity of the user. We review here the prominent LBSN services, evaluating what they mean to their users and to the business world in order to understand how they have become so popular. We discuss the collective intelligence powered by location awareness. Location awareness enables more intense collaboration. The ever-growing amounts of data being generated and processed by these services create an interesting context for intelligence gathering. We also attempt to summarize the specific factors affecting user privacy and security within the context of Location Based Social Networks, and look at what suggestions have been made toward lessening the impact of these factors. We tend to concentrates on true Location-Based...
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