Oct. 23, 2012 — Several years ago a sitcom called “Bewitched” included a nosey neighbor named Gladys Kravitz in their lineup of characters. She was always peeking out the window at the house across the street to see what her neighbors were doing. Her snooping was obvious to Darren and Samantha Stevens, the neighbors she was watching.
A few decades ago it was easy to determine if someone was watching or stalking us. We would catch glimpses of the figure in the window or a car following our patterns of turns as we drove home late at night. With the introduction of the Internet and invention of new technology such as smart phones, it is much more difficult to detect inappropriate behavior.
While covering a presentation about cybercrimes against children presented at Westwood High School, I learned a few things about the precautions I need to take as an adult to protect myself and family against cybercrime.
FBI Special Agent Scott Schofield warned geotagging capabilities in cellphones, smart phones and some cameras can provide more information about our daily activities than we care to share. Geotagging is the practice of adding geographical information to digital photographs.
I did a little investigating and found posting photos to a Twitter or Facebook account often provides details on the exact location the photo was taken. According to icanstalku.com, someone could analyze the photos to determine “where you live; who else lives there; your commuting patterns; where you go for lunch each day; and who you go to lunch with.”
We often snap a shot with friends and tag the activity or send a photo of a new home or the employee of the month certificate we earned that hangs on the wall at our worksite. If these shots are geotagged, someone could learn we go to Starbucks every Saturday morning for coffee with friends; the location of our new house; and our work address.
The U.S. Army website had an article on geotagging titled, “Mapping your life: Embedded data in photos could tip off criminals.” The author warned soldiers posting photos could provide their enemy with the exact grid coordinates of a mission. Although not readily visible, the information is detected with browser plug-ins or software programs. A photo taken in the barracks could result in having a mortar launched into the area.
During the presentation in Westwood, Schofield said snapping a photo of a car with your cell phone in order to list it on Ebay could give a thief the information needed to steal it while you are sleeping at night.
He also told students about a crime ring that would monitor Facebook to learn when families would be on vacation and using the geotagging capabilities from posted photos to rob the house while the residents were on vacation.
The solution is to make sure you are not leaving a trail of coordinates with every photo posted. To prevent this, Schofield told students to Google the make of their cellphone, smart phone or camera and follow the instructions on disabling the geotag function.
Even if you find geotagging a photo to be appropriate at times, some good advice to follow which was posted on the Internet is: “Never geotag private locations, such as a home or school” and “never geotag photos with children.”
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