Little research exists on one of the most common, oldest, and most utilized forms of online social geographic information: the location field found in most virtual community user profiles. We performed the first in-depth study of user behavior with regard to the location field in Twitter user profiles. We found that 34% of users did not provide real location information, frequently incorporating fake locations or sarcastic comments that can fool traditional geographic information tools. When users did input their location, they almost never specified it at a scale any more detailed than their city. In order to determine whether or not natural user behaviors have a real effect on the locatability of users, we performed a simple machine learning experiment to determine whether we can identify a users location by looking only at what that user tweets. We found that a users country and state can in fact be determined easily with decent accuracy, indicating that users implicitly reveal location information, with or without realizing it. Implications for location-based services and privacy are discussed.
Hecht, B.; Hong, L.; Suh, B.; Chi, E. H. Tweets from Justin Biebers heart: the dynamics of the location field in user profiles. ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI); 2011 May 7-12; Vancouver, BC, Canada.