Monday, April 16, 2012

A Geo What??

You know how your mom or your grandmother is always bugging you about posting pictures online?

They’re right.

Here’s the deal: you should know by now that anybody can copy a picture you post online, be it at Photobucket or Facebook or anywhere else. A caution: All it takes is one “friend of a friend” who can look at your pictures and decide to right click, copy, and paste, and your photo will be used however that person wants. You’re thinking: I know all of my friends. Nobody can look at my Facebook page but the people I allow. That’s only true to a point. Your friends have friends, they have friends, and they have friends. Your picture can easily wind up being seen by someone who is a stranger to you.
And, you ask, what could they do with it?
They can use the photo to create a fake ID. They can use your face as their face when they create a website, blog, or use an online service, such as setting up an online dating account. They can manipulate it so it’s the face on someone else’s body, even animate it, and they can use it to advertise any number of things without seeking your permission—you won’t even know.
Probably the worst thing about posting photos online is that pedophiles can use pictures of children in unimaginable ways. They also will create a Facebook account, using a photo they found online of some child, ask a child to ‘friend’ them, and then patiently stalk the child for several months, pretending to be another child, getting to ‘know’ the child, and then arrange to meet face to face. Result: that child is in serious danger and doesn’t know it. Parents, please think very seriously about allowing your children to have Facebook accounts. You can’t monitor everything all the time, and filters can only do so much.
You can find your photo cropping up years down the line when an employer checks you out for a potential job. Do you want an employer seeing that picture of you acting like a moron? Even though it’s your life and your picture, it doesn’t make you look like the most desirable employee.

Pay attention….this is going to get way serious:

The newest danger of posting pictures online is quite frightening. The term is ‘Geotagging.’ What this refers to is the ability of people to trace where a picture comes from. Most pictures now taken with a digital camera have tags that identify not only the time and date it was taken, but also the location. Does your camera or phone have a GPS on it? With a little computer knowledge, people now have the ability to find out exactly where that photo was taken—to within 15 feet!!

A GPS may come built into the device, usually a camera or cell phone, but can also be added after purchase using an app. Smartphones and Blackberries usually have one, as do many phones by Nokia, Motorola, etc. It’s meant to be a convenience—never lose your car in the parking lot!!--but there is a dangerous downside to having that GPS feature. It’s estimated that someone with some very basic computer knowledge would only need about 15 minutes to track the tag down and tell where the picture was taken, and to repeat myself; Within 15 feet of where it was taken. If you’re thinking, no big deal: so what if they know where I live? Read on!

It’s a big deal if you don’t want people to realize where the picture of the huge flat screen TV was taken and the fact that you’re not home (“Look at my new toy, too bad I have to work tomorrow to pay for it!”). It’s a big deal if you don’t want people to know how to find your child at a nearby park where he likes to play. It’s a big deal if you are home alone and this person can just trace a picture to you and show up at your doorstep pretending to be a repairman. It’s a big deal if you don’t want to be stalked or have your child stalked (and let’s face it, kids can be very computer savvy. It could be another kid stalking yours--or an adult). It’s a major big deal if you are having an issue with child custody or an abusive relationship you are trying to get away from.

Or what about this: You post pictures from your vacation at the lake, or at camp, or visiting your cousin in Cookietown, Oklahoma. Someone simply chooses a picture in your album online, finds out where you live, and empties your home because he or she knows you’re in Cookietown right now.

I encourage you to use some common sense when you take pictures and post them online, if you feel you must:
  • Don’t take a picture in front of your house showing the house number.
  • Don’t post a picture of your child wearing a jersey with his/her name on it.
  • Avoid announcing the ages of your kids.
  • Be private about your work hours and where you work.
  • Remember that your friends also take pictures of you with their devices that can be traced.
  •  Even a picture of your beloved car or pet can reveal where you live.
  • Be smart about how you tag your photos as well as your comments on what you're doing.

For more information about geotagging as well as how to disable a GPS feature before you take pictures, check out: This stemmed from a website called “I Can Stalk U” which was intended to show just how easy it is to find someone using geotagging and stalk him—not to encourage stalking, but to warn of the dangers and how easy it can be.

Use caution when you post anything, because it can live forever in cyberspace.

Be safe online!

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