WJBF EXTRA: Hidden Dangers Of Geotagging

WJBF EXTRA: Hidden Dangers Of Geotagging (Image 1)

By Jillian Benfield

Just about everyone has one these days, a smart phone. You can do just about anything with it, from online shopping to finding directions. But, with all of the convenience also comes danger. With a snap of your camera phone you may be letting the world know too much about you.

It's more than likely your right hand man, your sidekick, because you rely on your smart phone to do just about anything. But, when you take a picture with it, there is more to that photo than what meets the eye.

“Wow, look at this! This is scary,” That's what Martina Chew said to her husband, a local law enforcement officer, when she recently found out about geotagging.

It's a function on your GPS-equipped smart phone you may not even know you have.

The pictures you take with your phone are embedded with the latitude and longitude coordinates of where your photos are taken. So, if you are a mom, like Martina, and upload pictures of your kids to sites like: Twitter, YFrog Or Flicker…

“it's scary because you can take a picture of your kids and they can see exactly where it is, it's really scary,” Chew explained.

Martina doesn't want pictures of her boys, Julian and Damian, to get into the wrong hands.

Richmond County Sheriff's Office investigator Mark Dobbins is head of crimes against children. He says child porn collectors look for pictures on social media sites, “To what a mother and father would see as just a day at a play park or a day at the pool or a day at the gym, they're actually using for their collection,” explained Dobbins.

It's something USC Aiken Web and Social Media Coordinator Patrick King says people need to be aware of. “When you post a photo online we tend to think only our immediate family members see those pictures, but when you put it online it's broadcasted out there,” he said.

Forever. There's no delete button on the internet.

So, why does geotagging exist?

The FCC will require all phones to have gps capability by 2012. The reason is…when you dial 911 for an emergency, it will transmit your latitude and longitude position to the emergency response agency.

It a good technology, that many, like college sophomore Emily Haggard, are afraid could be used for darker purposes. She posts picture almost daily from her college dorm. “I didn't think that was possible, at all. It's actually really scary,” she said.
However, some people, like Cassandra Lutrull, think geotracking is a non-issue. “I don't think it really bothers me that someone knows where I am,” she said.

King says that's fine, but that everyone needs to know what their phones are capable of doing. He says, “people need to protect themselves and be aware of what all they share and when they share it.”

It's something Martina now knows and she wants parents like her to be educated. “There are predators out there and not just your child's safety, your own safety, everyone's safety,” she advises.
There’s good news for Facebook users. Facebook sanitizes their photos so that no one can pull any information from a picture you post on their site. The power of your phone is in your hands. You can turn off the GPS capability on you phone. Just click here: http://icanstalku.com/ to learn how.

However, there is a downside to turning the GPS function off, emergency services will not be able to find you.

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