I solemnly swear that I am up to no good: Marauder’s Map Chrome extension helps you stalk friends

marauders map chrome extension news tutorial6
Business Insider
It’s probably naive to expect even the tiniest measure of privacy in an age of pervasive surveillance, but you could be forgiven if you thought Facebook Messenger was a source of respite. That sadly isn’t the case — a new browser tool developed by a Cambridge, MA student reveals that Messenger, if left configured on the default setting, can be quite invasive.

The Chrome extension, dubbed “Marauder’s Map” in a tongue-in-cheek nod to Harry Potter, harvests your friends’ location data to map a history of their movements over time. It works like this: if your friends use Messenger on mobile and have opted in to location sharing, their coarse latitude and longitude is recorded with every reply and text they send. “Marauder’s Map” pulls that data from Javascript objects in the Messenger web client and presents it as dots and lines over a geographical map.

Location sharing is an optional feature, but it’s easy to leave it enabled unwittingly — at no point during the Messenger app setup process are users informed that location tracking is turned on by default. Switching it off isn’t exactly arduous — you need only jump settings and uncheck the box next to ‘Location’ — but given the opaqueness of the process, the potential for unintentional sharing is all too apparent.

Concededly, extensions like “Marauder’s Map” are little more than a voyeuristic curiosity — all whereabouts are approximate and reported only as messages are received — but they do illustrate the dangers of liberal sharing. After all, it’s not hard to extrapolate from big pools of data, especially location data, such things as when your friend last vacationed, or the likely home of a former romantic partner.

Services that track and share your whereabouts surreptitiously are nothing new — traffic app Waze has a particularly liberal policy that permits it to shop your information around to pretty much anyone — but they speak to a worrisome trend: sacrificing privacy for convenience. Somewhat surprisingly, many aren’t opposed to the idea — a study conducted by Accenture found that the majority of consumers in both the U.S. and UK are willing to have trusted retailers use some of their personal data in order to present personalized and targeted products, services, recommendations, and others. But the survey participants said they’d still prefer control over that data — 88 percent thought companies should give them flexibility to control how their personal information is being used.

For services like Facebook, then, transparency would be the best policy. Here’s hoping a disclaimer about location sharing accompanies the next Messenger update.


I tried an LTE laptop for a month, and I wasn’t really convinced

LTE laptops offer up plenty of benefits and are becoming more common. After spending one month with one in my daily life in New York City, I really wondered if it is something that consumers really need in their lives.
Smart Home

Dear Instant Pot Smart: I love you. Thank you for changing my life

After taking the Instant Pot Smart WiFi Programmable Pressure Cooker for a spin, one long-time product reviewer finds much to love about the device she long coveted, despite that it’s not really that smart.

Windows 10 user activity logs are sent to Microsoft despite users opting out

Windows 10 Privacy settings may not be enough to stop PCs from releasing user activity data to Microsoft. Users discovered that opting out of having their data sent to Microsoft does little to prevent it from being released.
Social Media

Walkie-talkie voice messaging finally comes to Instagram

In its latest grab from messaging apps, Instagram now lets you send walkie-talkie style voice messages. Apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and iMessage have offered the feature for some time.

Microsoft is ‘handing even more of online life’ to Google, Mozilla CEO says

Not everyone is happy with Microsoft's switch to Google's Chromium engine. In a new blog post, Mozilla CEO Chris Beard writes that he believes the move is "handing online life control" to Google.

Edit, sign, append, and save with six of the best PDF editors

There are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, and though the selection is robust, finding a solid solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here, we've rounded up best PDF editors, so you can edit no matter your budget or OS.

Google Translate updated to reduce gender bias in its translations

Google is changing how Google Translate offers translations. Previously when you entered a word like doctor, Translate would offer a masculine interpretation of the word. Now, Translate will offer both masculine and feminine versions.

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.

From beautiful to downright weird, check out these great dual monitor wallpapers

Multitasking with two monitors doesn't necessarily mean you need to split your screens with two separate wallpapers. From beautiful to downright weird, here are our top sites for finding the best dual monitor wallpapers for you.

Encryption-busting law passed in Australia may have global privacy implications

Controversial laws have been passed in Australia which oblige tech companies to allow the police to access encrypted messages, undermining the privacy of encryption with potentially global effects.

Can Microsoft’s Airband Initiative close broadband gap for 25M Americans?

A new report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says that 25 million Americans do not have access to broadband internet. Of these, more than 19 million are living in rural communities. Can Microsoft help out?

Microsoft’s Chromium Edge browser may be adding your Chrome extensions

Fans sticking to Google Chrome because due to its vast extension library might be able to switch over to Microsoft's latest iteration of Edge, as a project manager confirms that the company has its eyes on Chrome extensions.

If you've lost a software key, these handy tools can find it for you

Missing product keys getting you down? We've chosen some of the best software license and product key finders in existence, so you can locate and document your precious keys on your Windows or MacOS machine.

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.