HOUSTON—They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s becoming a dangerous reality in the world of emerging technology. Authorities are warning smartphone users that they are giving away more than they intend to when they post photos from their iPhone or BlackBerry.
The concern is over geotagging. Smartphones encode a GPS stamp into a digital picture they capture. That means the longitude and latitude coordinates are in plain view to cyber-stalkers when it’s posted on websites like Twitter.
Houston police officer Mike McCoy heads up social media security for HPD. He believes it’s just a matter of time before geotagging is linked to major crimes.
"If you took a picture of me right now and someone was stalking you, they could tell just by the picture you just took of me what time you took that picture, the date and where you are right now," McCoy said.
The sheer ease of it led Larry Pesche to create the website ICANSTALKU.com. He says he launched it after learning his own child’s photo could be traced back to its location. Now, he sends at least 30,000 tweets a day to unsuspecting Web users to show them that their pictures can lead anyone to their location.
Geotagging can be disabled from your smartphone. Even the military is advising its men and women to avoid posting pictures without disabling the geotag, because it could reveal their secret location.
For step-by-step instructions on how to disable GPS from your smartphone photos, click here.
For more tips on social media/smartphone safety, click here.