We all love our smart phones. They allow us to stay connected like never before through apps, emails, texts, calls, and of course pictures. But before you snap and post there’s something you should know. The image on the screen might not be the only thing you’re sending out.
"Well, it's a picture, but a picture can speak a thousand words," according to senior security consultant with NWN corporation Larry Pesce.
It’s called geotagging. By simply sending a digital picture from your phone, or by posting to a certain web service, you could be sharing your exact location with the world- in many cases without even knowing it.
"The smart phone cameras are enabling latitude and longitude hidden within the photographs, so when the photographs get posted to the internet, many of the services are still retaining the latitude and longitude, which now, anyone else can grab out of each photograph," says Pesce
After seeing how many people were geotagging their location on twitter, Pesce and a partner started the website, icanstalku.com. The site posts 30 to 50 thousand tweets a day, including the person’s uploaded picture and a map to the location where it was taken.
Pesce admits it’s creepy but he’s not breaking the law or even sharing private information. He’s just reposting data easily available to anyone
Pesce claims the purpose of the website is to, "raise awareness for the folks that are posting these photographs to twitter or to any of these other internet services. They probably don't realize that they're actually posting their location."
Online over sharing has proven costly. In august police in Nashua, New Hampshire arrested three men who used social networking sites to target and burglarize dozens of homes. They stole more than 100 thousand dollars worth of goods, including tv’s, power tools, and cameras. Most of the break-ins occurred during the day. The crooks knew exactly where the residents were by tracking their updates.
Lieutenant Jeffrey Bukunt of the Nashua New Hampshire police department urges people to use caution when putting personal information on the web.
"Well we may be making ourselves more vulnerable. I would just ask people to just be vigilant in what they put out there. And keep private information private."
So how do you protect yourself? It all depends on the sites you post to and the type of phone you own. Most smart phones these days are equipped to automatically geo-tag pictures at the time they are taken. You have to actually go into the camera setting to disable the feature.
“Folks aren’t necessarily putting two and two together about what geotagging is and sort of what the impact to their personal privacy is. And maybe to the smart phone manufacturers to their detraction- often times they're making those settings sort of hidden from the user to be able to turn them off, turn it on, and or not really explaining what this does,” says Capt. Dickerson.
With most phones you can disable geotagging on the camera and still use your GPS for other location based services like map finding and E 911.The popular social networking site Facebook automatically removes geotagging unless to specifically select it.
We have all been told it’s nice to share but the exact location of where a self portrait was taken or a picture of the kids might be better kept to yourself.