Are You Being Geo-Located On Social Networks?

The Danger of Using the Wrong Vendor for Digital Forensics
May 1, 2013
Getting Evidence from the Computer of the Boston Bombing Suspects
May 29, 2013
Show all

Are You Being Geo-Located On Social Networks?

The rise of social media and online networking has really complicated the idea of maintaining a private life. Everyone knows someone who shares way too much personal information on their social networking profiles, letting the public know everything about their daily schedule, likes, and dislikes. The truth is that, thanks to geo-location services, people sharing photos online may be sharing more information than they had planned.

Social media sites that emphasize sharing photos have increased. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, are just a few of the sites where people go to upload pictures, sometimes multiple times a day. Photos taken with most digital cameras and smartphones have what are known as EXIF tags. These tags include information such as the time, longitude, and latitude of when and where the picture was captured. Unless these tags are manually altered, which is a complex procedure; this data can be extracted and used by others to find your location.

The United States Military Issues Geo-Tagging Press Release

In March of 2012, the U.S. military warned soldiers about the security risks created by geo-tagging. The cautionary tale used in the U.S. Army’s press release provides an excellent example of just how dangerous geo-location services can be.  Soldiers based in Iraq posted pictures of a newly arrived fleet of helicopters online in 2007. The opposition leaders were able to use the geo-location data from those pictures to find and destroy the fleet of Apache helicopters. Uploading and sharing a photo was an extremely costly mistake on this occasion.

How Geo-Location On Images Affects the General Public

Soldiers in wartime are not the only ones who put themselves at risk by posting photographs to social networking sites. There are applications available that make it easy for nearly anyone to be able to quickly and easily extract and use geo-location data provided by social media pages. This opens up the possibility that people could be tracked, stalked, or have their homes burgled because they frequently post their pictures, and therefore, their locations, to the Internet.

Using Geo-Location Services Safely

Many people allow apps on their smartphones of computers to access their location, and therefore use geo-location services, because these services enable them to benefit from GPS, maps, and other location-related software. However, it is safer for you, and your family, if the location services remain off completely until they are absolutely necessary.

When using social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, these applications often give the option of adding a location to ever picture and update of any kind. By having these features turned on, you allow anyone that has access to your account to see where you are and where you have been. It may be tempting to show off to your friends that you are out having a great time at a party, or even on vacation, but you are also letting potential criminals know that your house is vacant. Criminals have learned that they can watch these types of public social networking profiles to find potential targets; do not let yourself be on this list just because you enjoy sharing photographs.

Not Sure If You Are Using Social Media Platforms Safely?

There are millions of people that use social networking sites that are not aware of their own risky behaviors. By contacting the experienced investigators at Prudential Associates, you can consult with digital forensics specialists who know how to spot the information that potential criminals, and predators, look for on social media. We can help you have greater peace of mind while enjoying your social networking.