If you are on Facebook and are a parent, I’m sure you saw the video that was being shared around yesterday. “You should be terrified,” it said, “because predators are finding photos you’ve taken from your phone and then can locate your child’s bedroom and GET THEM! So panic right now!!”
Okay, I’m paraphrasing. The real video is here if you want to check it out.
But, the bottom line is they want you to be concerned because the GPS that is part of everyone’s smart phone is putting data on the photos that can show where that photo was taken.
And you can see why that bit of news was shared a bazillion times:
- Nearly everyone has a smart phone.
- Nearly everyone takes photos of their kids with their smart phones.
- Nearly everyone has posted one of those photos on social media at some point.
- Parents don’t want their children taken.
The combination of these elements created a panic throughout our country’s parenting community yesterday with a single viral video.
But, should you be terrified or is this just created by the media to increase viewership?
If you said, “increase viewership”, then you would be right. And the news station did quite a good job of creating a concerning issue that parents would want to share with others. They interviewed a policeman (well, a school cop, but who really wants details, right?) who was not aware of this “problem” and got some great sound bites out of him. They went to a woman’s house after securing pictures of her kids and finding her address. And they even showed how easy it was to get such information by having one of the news anchors demonstrate it.
However, they were missing some important pieces of valid information. (But of course they did. It wouldn’t have been much of a story if they were included.)
1. To get the information from the photo, you need a special program to decode the GPS data. They mentioned this briefly, but failed to mention that it would take a lot of tech know-how and time to bother getting this information. Are random predators really that dedicated to find out where your specific child lives? Probably not.
2. The GPS information is removed when you upload photos to social media such as Facebook to AVOID these types of privacy issues. The only time your phone’s GPS information is communicated to others on Facebook is when you “check in” to a location or choose to add your location to a post.
3. It is true that if you email someone a photo or post a photo on Craigslist, the data is still located on the photo. But you can easily scrub that information by using something like ExifTool if you are concerned.
4. Even criminals can’t figure out the GPS data. A few hackers – as in the criminals who know the most about how to use the Internet – have gotten caught by not extracting the GPS data from photos they’ve emailed to the FBI. If they aren’t savvy to the ways of GPS data on pictures, do you really think that your run-of-the-mill predator is?
So go ahead and post that photo of your darling little one on Facebook with confidence. You’re way more likely to get a hundred “likes” than a predator on your trail.