28 December 2011

Posting photos online can help criminals track you

Social networking, smartphones and online photo sharing have become increasingly more popular, but experts say there are some dangers involved with posting photos on the Internet.

Because of metadata, a criminal can find the location of a person who has posted photos on a social media platform or other website from a camera-enabled mobile phone at any time, Bourbon County Emergency Manager Keith Jeffers said.

Metadata are bits of information embedded in images taken with smartphones, webcams and some digital cameras and then shared on public websites. Information often includes the times, dates and geographical coordinates (latitude and longitude) where images are taken. Details such as where a person lives and works and their travel patterns and habits can unwittingly be revealed through metadata.

While the geospatial data can be helpful in a myriad of web applications that plot image locations, it also opens a door for criminals, including burglars, stalkers and predators. It's not a stretch to imagine young teens' images of their ventures to the mall or beach being culled by web predators and meticulously plotted on online maps.

People who want to use information to their advantage only need to enter the latitude and longitude coordinates into a program such as Google Earth to find someone's location.

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