GPS systems, especially those included on our smart phones, have made life much more convenient.
Finding restaurants, mapping vacation routes, and even getting out of the woods alive are some of the benefits. But this new technology also makes it easier for criminals to track us down and cause harm.
A recent report by an NBC news affiliate in Kansas City showed just how easy it is for predators to find children based on photos taken of them with smart phones. Here’s how it happens:
Someone innocently snaps a photo of their child, a friend, or of themselves to post on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
The GPS on the phone applies a Geotag to the photo that contains the exact longitude/ latitude where it was taken. Once this photo is shared publicly, the geolocation tags are also shared publicly.
Bad guys can use simple software to extract the location where the photo was taken. The scariest part of this whole process is that it happens within minutes.
Think about it…your teenager could be hanging out in the park and decide to snap a picture of a friend (or even his/herself) with a smart phone. When that happens, someone (or anyone) online can instantly know their exact location.
In the study by NBC news, the reporter was able to track down two young boys in their suburban neighborhood, all because they were playing around with their parents’ smart phone. All it took was a simple scan using online software that is available to anyone.
The potential for tragedy is absolutely frightening. But there are things we can do to be safe.
Disable GeoLocation on your phone (for pictures). Now, you may not want to disable the GPS entirely from your phone, and that’s understandable. It’s one of the best features of the phone, after all. But if you are going to take pictures and share them online, you need to disable the geolocation setting. Depending on the phone, you can completely disable the GPS altogether or prevent the camera from storing geotags when you take pictures.
Examine privacy settings. Another thing you can do is make sure you are only sharing your information with those who have your permission (i.e. your “friends” on Facebook).
A simple search through your settings will reveal if you are sharing your information with everyone or just those who have your permission. Other sites, such as Twitter, are a little trickier. You have to “protect” your tweets if you want to control who sees the content.
Most people don’t use this option, since Twitter is more fast-paced and less personal. But if you’re going to share photos of your kids using a Smartphone, you might want to consider locking your account.
Please take a minute to make sure you aren’t broadcasting your kids’ location to the world. And if they use smart phones, make sure they are using safe practices of sharing photos.
With a little time tweaking your settings, you can ensure that you and your family aren’t put into unnecessary danger. If you have any questions, please come in to or call Computer Guys USA (928) 468-0000 for free help in changing your settings on your phone or computer. We just want everyone to be safe!