Smart Use of Smart Phones: Check Your Settings
eQuipped readers who are on Facebook may have seen a recent clip warning parents about the dangers of taking photos with their smart phone and posting them on the internet. If you've been a subscriber to this blog, the information in the video came as no surprise to you. eQuipped has covered the dangers of geolocation a few times: Here and here.
What surprised me was the number of people in my network and my friends' networks who didn't know that their photos could potentially provide a predator with enough information to track down their kids.
It is easy for unknown people to access location data that is embedded in photos they find online. There's even a service that will do it (which won't be advertised here). Basic computing knowledge and a couple of simple steps will “open” a photo to reveal GPS coordinates. This data can show where a photo was taken, for example, in your child's bedroom, at school, or at a park they frequent. The information shows up as pins on a map–street names, landmarks, and house numbers included. It is scary.
A photo of your daughter taken at a sleepover at your house
posted on a social media site with no privacy settings
could lead someone straight to your door.
It is simple to deactivate the geolocation settings on your phone. On an iPhone the button is located in Settings under Location Services. Turn off Camera and any other applications that don't absolutely need GPS. Do this for all mobile devices–iPads included, if they are used for photos. Check your digital camera for instructions.
The digital citizenship and cyber-safety program at the school where I work teaches secondary school students to be careful with digital photos, and we encourage them to teach their parents. Even with the warnings and education, young people can be blasé about personal safety, citing their stock-standard “it'll-never-happen-to-me” excuse.
I encourage you, eQuipped readers, to talk about this with your friends. Next time you meet up for coffee, whip out your phones and talk about safe settings.
Geolocation is an incredibly useful technology; it's just that it's easily exploited for nefarious purposes. Think twice about posting photos (or letting your friends post photos) of your children online. While you take safety precautions, your friends and family may not.
Here's more on how useful technology can potentially endanger our families. A baby monitor is the device under scrutiny in this article!