Twitter Users Complain Of Glitch In Geo-Tagging

Twitter turned on a long-awaited location-sharing feature last week making the feature opt-in, but the company may want to put any potential plans for ad targeting on hold until it can work out the bugs.

The technology tags a person's tweets based on location, but tweets streaming on the site Monday reflect a glitch in the ability to accurately pinpoint the spot. @Fallen_Vegeta explains he's at Georgia Highlands College, but not in Ontario, Calif.

Aside from tagging the wrong geographic location for some, the feature also brings up privacy concerns,which is the reason that users must turn on this feature from account settings. People also can delete past locations saved in Twitter.

The feature initially rolled out in the United States, with more countries to follow. Maponics provides data on boundaries for about 80,000 neighborhoods. The specs include latitude and longitude. "We're growing at about 10,000 boundaries per quarter," says Mark Friend, vice president of sales and marketing for Maponics. "In April we will have 90,000 boundaries in the United States and Canada."



Twitter has also licensed Maponics data for international neighborhoods. In the European Union, Maponics has built out data on 10,000 neighborhoods. This year the company will build out another 10,000 outside the E.U., U.S, and Canada.

Bogota, Colombia; Mexico City; and Moscow, Russia are cities that will appear on Maponic's list of international data sites. Friend says building out Twitter internationally will become an important focus this year for cofounders Evan Williams and Biz Stone.

When it comes to pointing fingers, Friend explains that telecommunication carriers contribute the technology that triangulates and identifies the person's specific location.

Friend says geo-code sent through the Internet service provider has something to do with the accuracy of tagging the location. The carriers might not know exactly where the person with the laptop computer sits, but most times they can come pretty close. "Carriers, by law, must have the ability to identify the location of the mobile device," he says. "Twitter decides the information that users must give to identify their location."

The complicated geo-location technology triangulates between cell towers to find the exact position of the mobile device through software and GPS chips in handsets.

Some technology provides better service than others. Most mobile phone GPS systems are notoriously general in identifying someone's exact location, according to Forrester Research Social Media Analyst Augie Ray. "There are so many different ways to make geo-location works," he says. "Reporting the location of a tweet from someone's mobile phone relies on the accuracy of the device's GPS."

Then you have Foursquare, which allows people to manually report where they are located. Being able to locate someone by triangulating the towers is still pretty difficult, Ray says.

Twitter isn't the only company to tap Maponics data. Google, Citysearch, Bing and others use the technology, too. Ultimately, geo-tagging aims to give advertisers more opportunities to reach consumers. The industry has moved closer, but isn't quite there.

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