Geotagging location could help criminals track you

Geotagging location could help criminals track you

PINE BELT (WDAM) - With Kim Kardashian West recently robbed in Paris after documenting her trip to fashion week on social media, Pine Belt cyber security experts are warning people to be careful with their location services settings on smartphones.

"What a lot people don't realize is by default, a lot of these services are turned on on the phones and everything that you do on your cell phone your location can be attached to that whether you send a text or take a picture," said Tommy Dorsey, director of client relations for Burton Computer Resources. "Each of your photos that you take, if your location services are turned on, is tagged with the location that you took the photo. When you send text messages, various phones can attach your GPS coordinates to that text message, so the recipient of the text message can know exactly where you are."

While Dorsey said there are benefits to having location services turned on for things like getting directions on map applications, finding your phone if it is lost or tracking you children, he said it is easy for that information to be taken and potentially misused.

"There's software out there that can take that information from photographs," he said. "There's applications that can take that information from photographs, and put it on a map and let you know know where that photograph was taken. Law enforcement does it all the time. It's not a hard thing to harvest that information. It's actually fairly easy. The software that does that is fairly easy to get."

He said it is particularly easy to track location on social media.

"A lot of social media - Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat - those things all post, take the GPS coordinates out of your phone when you send a message, and then attaches those things to the message," Dorsey said. "So the recipients of the message get your location."

But one does not have to be logged on to a social media account to be constantly saving and sending a location.

"Any GPS enabled device has the ability to embed the location in any photograph that device takes," Dorsey said. "The GPS coordinates that are tagged in a photograph that you take or a message that you send are the same coordinates that are on that map, so if I took a photograph out in the parking lot, you could pinpoint with those coordinates the parking lot.That's not something that I think cell phone services or cell phone manufacturers really put out there that (location services are) turned on by default. I think a lot of people really need to be aware for safety measures."

Location services are located in the privacy settings section of smartphones, and Dorsey said it is important to know which applications are using them.

"People need to realize there are privacy settings on their phone, and they need to understand how those effect different behaviors for different applications," he said. "Every application has its own privacy settings, and people really need to look that up and understand."