Uploading Cute Kid Photos from Smartphones Can Reveal Location of Home, School, Daycare
Thursday, December 01, 2011 8:57 AM
My little 18-month-old cousin loves to dance. Put the music on and that girl gets up and busts a move. It's adorable, and who wouldn't want to share it by snapping photos and shooting video with smartphones and emailing them to friends and relatives.
Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I'll be watching you
Some may get posted directly to Facebook. Some just get passed on by email, and posted on a social website later by someone who thinks the photo is too cute not to share.
There's a big problem, though. As soon as the photos are uploaded on to a social website, directions to my cousin's home, even a satellite view of her bedroom window could be available to anyone with an Internet connection. From there, it's easy to track down the closest playground, her daycare center, and follow her parents work schedules.
Just to make sure it was true, I?opened a photo of my cousin on my computer and, using free downloadable software, found a map to her house, her address and a satellite view clear enough to see the patio furniture and the dog in the backyard. I easily located the closest daycare centers, with addresses and phone numbers, and the closest park.
It's creepy. Cyberstalking is really, really easy. It took me five minutes.
Many smartphones come equipped with a GPS locator that imprints the longitude, latitude, date and time in the background data when a photo or video is shot. It's not readily visible on the digital photo, but it remains embedded with the photo when it is emailed or uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, Photobucket, Flickr, YouTube or any number of websites.
Known as geotags, the phone records the geographic coordinates just like a GPS device.
A recent change in federal communication rules will require new mobile phones to record precise location information with an outside limit of 300 meters (almost 1,000 feet) so 911 emergency calls can be accurately located. Within a couple of years, all smartphones are likely to have a GPS chip.
That's great news for emergency responders and, fortunately, phones like my Samsung have the option of leaving the 911 location option on, while turning all other location geo tagging off. In fact, smartphone users can deactivate geotagging whenever they wish and turn it back on when they choose.
To see how to deactivate or limit geotagging on a variety of brands of smartphones, including the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android, visit www.icanstalku.com.
To demonstrate geotagging, icanstalku.com also shows photos posted on Twitter with the geotags mapped out.