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Geotagging: How It Can Put You at Risk, and 4 Ways to Stay Safe

February 23 2018

mobile mapYour safety with regards to technology is our concern. And at times we write about potential threats and provide you with resources, so you can stay safe. For this reason, today we write about the unpleasant side of geotagging. While geotagging can be fun and convenient, we believe it's important to be aware of how geotagging works. Because although we may like the benefits and convenience of it, there are also dangers that come with it.

Geotagging

In layman's terms, geotagging is when your geographical location is tagged to something digital, such as a post, photo or video.

Sometimes geotagging is done automatically for us, such as when you take a picture with your smartphone. You don't see it, but your location is automatically recorded in the meta-data of the photo.

Sometimes we geotag ourselves on our social media channels. Social networks have geotagging features built in (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat). Do you 'check-in' or 'add location' to your social media post when you arrive at a restaurant? A concert? The airport? If you have, then you've geotagged your location.

Sometimes we geotag ourselves on apps, such as when we share our 'run' or 'bike' trail online.

The danger of 'checking in' or 'adding location.'

Depending on your online privacy settings – and your friends' – your geographical information can be seen online not just by friends and family you trust, but it could potentially be seen by strangers with criminal intentions.

People who have malicious intentions will exploit to their advantage anything you give them. When you geotag yourself to a location and you – or your friends – share your location with the public, criminals can learn your patterns. They call it cybercasing.

"Cybercasing refers to how geotagged text, photos and videos can be used by criminals and other negatively motivated third parties." Burglary, identity theft and cyberstalking are only a few of the possible crimes you could be a victim of.

Thieves want to know when you are out of the house and for how long are you out of the house. If you "check-in" at the same coffee shop or gym at the same time on specific days, someone could determine your routine and exploit that information to their advantage.

Pedophiles stalking children want to see photos of your kids and want to know what school they go to, what parks they frequent, and what interests they have.

Photos and Videos

However, even if you don't share your location – if you only share a photo – criminals can find your location with the photo you shared.

Aside from any visible landmarks, criminals can extract the location information from the picture you posted online. If you shared a photo you took in your home, they could extract what valuables you own (from the photo) and your location (from the meta-data).

This is relevant, as well, for the photos and videos of the homes you list for sale on YouTube. Does the video of the house show any valuables inside? Have you also included the address of the house? You could have just put your client at risk!

What you post may be innocent, but what criminals see is opportunity. For example:

  • Posting "I'm on Vacation" = no one is at the house
  • Posting "Home alone and bored" = I'm vulnerable
  • Photos of your home = look at my valuables

What you can do

1. Learn more about the privacy settings of the social media channels and exercise apps you use.

2. Consider turning off location services on some location sharing apps

Turn 'off' location sharing on the apps you think might pose a safety risk. Keep 'on' the ones that are beneficial to keep – such as 'Find My iPhone' or 'Find Friends.'

3. Don't post your photos online or, if you do, remove geotags from your digital photos

On iPhone: Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > locate the name of the app or the camera and change it from the "ON" position to the "OFF" position.

4. Continue educating yourself on this topic.

CallCall your Tech Helpline for advice.

To view the original article, visit the Tech Helpline blogTech Helpline blog.