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BLOG: Social Networking and Geotagging

Most computer users today are using some type of social networking site, whether on their actual computer or on their smart phone. Although these websites can be beneficial in many ways, there are also some safety concerns that you and your family should be aware of. As a general rule, these can be summed up in one sentence: don’t give out any information on social networking sites you wouldn’t want a stranger to see.

Do you post personal information which could be used against you, such as to steal your identity? In some cases, thieves only need to know your full name and birth date to find other personal information on the web, and many people have this information prominently displayed, for example, in Facebook. Some people make it easy to learn such things as marital status, relatives, and often even their address! But these are areas most people consider and do a pretty good job of protecting themselves against.

You may be reading this and thinking to yourself that you would never put your address on your social media profile, however, consider this: have you ever taken and posted a photo of your home, or around your home, without ensuring you weren’t automatically capturing the address through “geotagging.” This is when your phone and many modern digital cameras automatically record the exact latitude and longitude of the picture using GPS. This information can be superimposed over a map to easily determine your address.

Why is this important? If criminals know where you live, it will be easy to determine when you’re not home. That’s when they break in. You must also consider that thieves may know exactly when you are gone for long periods of time by looking at your pictures and noticing that you took a picture while in another state or country. Every device is different, but to fix this, you can use a search engine to find out how to turn this feature off on yours. Simply search for “how to turn off geotagging metadata on a XXXX.” This is the technique criminals use when homeowners are smart enough to not post something like, “Hi everyone! You may not hear from any of us for a little while because we’ll be spending the next two weeks skiing in Colorado! We’ll let you know when we get back!” But of course, that’s not you.

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