CHICAGO (CBS) – We love posting our favorite photos on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter to show our friends and family what we’ve been up to. But, as CBS 2’s Mary Kay Kleist reports, those innocent snapshots could be revealing a lot more about you than you might think — and opening you up to danger as well.
Cristina Parker loves taking pictures with her smartphone.
“I like to take a lot of photos of my dog and post them on Twitter. I think she’s really cute. Also my friends and family,” said Parker.
But one day, she got an ominous tweet from the website “I Can Stalk U”, telling her they know where she lives.
Parker said, “I thought it was a little scary. They were accurate to my location from my house. So my immediate response was, ‘what happened, how do you know where I am?’”
It turns out, Parker’s photos contained GPS information called geotags, embedded by her smartphone. Every time she posted a photo online that she took with her phone, she was inadvertently giving out her whereabouts.
Gerald Friedland, from the International Computer Science Institute Berkeley said, “The location can be as accurate as plus/minus one meter, depending on the reception of the GPS signal of the device you’re using.”
Friedland co-authored a study on the privacy implications of geotagging. The findings indicated most people had no idea what they were posting online.
“There’s enough information out there that you can actually track people and do potential harm to them,” said Friedland.
So what can you do about it? You don’t have to stop posting pictures. Just turn off the GPS feature for photos on your phone. It won’t affect the other GPS capabilities.
Cristina Parker turned hers off. Now she posts her photos without worry, and she hopes others will do the same.
“I don’t think many people know that they’re tweeting their geographic information every time they post a photo,” she said.
Since each phone is different, the public awareness site, ICanStalkU.com, has listed instructions for turning off geotagging for every major brand on their website.