After a grueling week of meetings with potential investors across the country, Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo spent this past weekend at his home in Corte Madera, California, a small suburb across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. On Saturday morning, he stopped at a breakfast place in town.
We know Costolo’s whereabouts because he told us—not in so many words, but in the metadata attached to his tweets. Nearly all of his public messages on Twitter include the precise location from which they are sent.
Some investors will pay good money for hints about the comings and goings of corporate executives. Private jet records have been used to piece together nascent deals. But with Twitter’s IPO planned for this week, Costolo may become the first CEO of a public company whose movements can easily be tracked in real time.
Another concern could be Costolo’s personal security. He is already wealthy, and stands to make a killing from the IPO. Many executives in similar positions go to great lengths to conceal details about their private lives, yet Costolo is a brazenly open book, at least whenever he deigns to tweet.
Inspecting @dickc’s tweets for data
To demonstrate what’s possible, we examined Costolo’s tweets since he began Twitter’s road show, meeting with investors across the country to pitch the company’s IPO. Even though his broad itinerary for the trip is well known, the location data revealed an extraordinary layer of detail about Costolo’s location. Last week, for instance, we followed along as he was driven to a small airport outside Boston that’s largely used by private jets, and we speculated about whom he might be eating with at an out-of-the-way restaurant in Princeton, New Jersey.
Costolo may well intend to reveal his location in such a granular way. It’s a feature of the service he’s in charge of, after all. On Twitter for iPhone, which Costolo uses almost all of the time, users can select whether or not to append their location to each tweet. Still, the app only displays your location as a city or neighborhood, as you can see in the image at right. It’s hardly obvious that you’re revealing your precise latitude and longitude, though you would imagine the CEO is aware of that.
Through a spokesman, Costolo declined to comment.
We accessed the specific location attached to each of @dickc‘s recent tweets by using Twitter’s API, but it can be done an easier way: Just click on the city that appears under any geotagged tweet on twitter.com. The data are limited by the precision of location services—a mixture of Wi-Fi and GPS—on Costolo’s iPhone. And it should be noted that he can easily conceal where he is simply by not tweeting from there.
Following @dickc around the country
Costolo has spent a lot of time in New York during Twitter’s road show, which began there on Friday, October 25. He tweeted that day from, among other places, the Goldman Sachs building, home to the IPO’s lead underwriting bank. And he stayed the weekend, seemingly at the Four Seasons, where he tweeted many times. Here’s a look at the locations of all the tweets Costolo sent while he was in New York for investor meetings:
After some time in Baltimore, Costolo found himself in Princeton, New Jersey, on the evening of Tuesday, October 29. There, he sent two tweets from, it appears, a meat-and-seafood restaurant called Elements, which is well regarded but not in the center of that small university town.
There are many other geotagged tweets from Costolo’s trip around the country, but we won’t belabor the point. His activity on Twitter didn’t give away any corporate secrets, though someone with additional information could possibly piece together clues about his meetings.
Costolo’s most recent tweet was sent from Route 101 in San Francisco. If we had to guess, he was commuting into the city from his Marin County home. On Tuesday, November 5, he is scheduled to hold meetings in Los Angeles. Stay tuned to his Twitter feed for more precise details.