I know where you child is!

Most likely you don’t know me.  I am some semi-anonymous guy who lives no where near you who happens to write a blog.  I might be a good guy. I might be a bad guy.  You really don’t know do you?  I can tell you that I am a good guy – but I suppose you will have to trust me when I tell you that.

Do you want me to know where you children hang out?  Or what park you most frequent with your child?  Would you like me or any other stranger to know which corner of the house your child’s bedroom is at?  Of course not, no parent wants strangers knowing all of these things about their children.

Due to modern technology and unknowing doting parents the safety of many children is at risk. 

The Technology

Smart phones now are equipped with a GPS sensor.  It’s main purpose is to offer navigation on your smart phone.  Admittedly, a very cool feature.  in 2005 we got our first phone that had this feature.  While I thought it would be great for my wife, the fact that the limited network bandwidth and screen size  made it a nearly useless tool.  But with today’s 3G and 4G networks and larger higher resolution screens the technology is well worth the investment.

A second feature of GPS enabled smart phones is that when you use the digital camera the picture can be encoded with the exact location you were when you took the picture.  It is called geo-tagging. As a photography hobbyist I love this feature.  When I am in a city, out in the mountains or in a forest I can take a picture of a landmark and later place the picture on a map at the precise location.

The Problem

However, do you always want to have people know where you took that picture?  This is especially problematic if you are sharing your pictures on line.  That photo shoot at the neighborhood park, or a birthday party in the back yard or swimming at a local pool, are these photos that you want geo-tagged?  Do you want people you don’t know knowing where you or your children spend time?

There is a website (http://icanstalku.com)  that is trying to bring this risk to people’s attention.  Using a simply query on Twitter they are capturing every photo that people share online publically that has geo-tagged information .  They then share the photo and the location that it was taken.  Here is a recent example

ICanStalkU was able to stalk ORANGENYELLOW at 8721 Tara Ln St. Louis MO

9 hours ago · Map Location · View Tweet · View Picture · Reply to ORANGENYELLOW

Note that the woman in the picture is indoors when she took the picture.

Here is another…

ICanStalkU was able to stalk VaVeros at http://maps.google.com/?q=-33.7266666667,150.994

26 minutes ago · Map Location · View Tweet · View Picture

Here is an American news show that tied the problem more directly to the risk to children.


How to mitigate the risk

There are two options on how to mitigate the risk:

1.  Don’t share your pictures on line.  If you never share the picture, you never tell people where you or your children are at.  However, you and I know this is not a very friendly or easy solution.  We live in a very social society where we want to share our lives with friends, neighbors, coworkers, family members and especially distant family members.

2.  Disable Geo-Tagging on your smart phones and newer digital cameras.  Typically the devices come with the feature disabled, but you should make sure.  The http://icanstalku.com site can give you some ideas on how to disable the feature.  Your device user documents can also guide you to how to disable the feature.

I am just one of many now

epsilon_logo In the last two days I have gotten two notices telling me that some of my personal information was stolen and disclosed to hackers.  I am now just one more of the millions that has had this happen to them.  I am one of the people that you will see news stories about in the coming days. 

A web marketing partner (Epsilon)  of many large corporations was specifically and purposely targeted and hacked recently.  The discovery came last week and the notices to affected customers started arriving this weekend.  At this point the only data that was taken contained names and e-mail addresses.  I am a customer of Hilton’s Honors program, and I am a CitiBank customer.

The risk for you and me is actually quite low if we continue to follow safe e-mail procedures that we should have been practicing for the last 12 years.  Hilton said it well in their letter to me this morning…

The most likely impact, if any, would be receipt of unwanted e-mails. We are not aware at this time of any unsolicited e-mails (spam) that are related, but as a precaution, we want to remind you of a couple of tips that should always be followed:

• Do not open e-mails from senders you do not know
• Do not share personal information via e-mail

Hilton Worldwide, its brands and loyalty program will never ask you to e-mail personal information such as credit card numbers or social security numbers. You should be cautious of "phishing" e-mails, where the sender tries to trick the recipient into disclosing confidential or personal information. I

So keep your defense up – be weary of unsolicited e-mail.  Don’t give out personal information through e-mail to people you do not know or trust. 

The lesson for all of us today, is that no matter how prepared you are to protect your information, you can not always be prepared when others do not protect your information for you. 

Here is one of the hundreds of articles that will flood the news agencies for awhile now.


Lester Engano RIP

image I am writing this blog to announce the passing of Lester Engano.  He lived a very short life and will most likely not be missed.  His short life served a purpose but it was time for him to move on.

Who was Les?  Les was an inventive personality that was born out of a desire to help students learn to understand the risks related to the use of social networking site such as FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, Hyves etc. 

Why was Les created in March 2011?  Les was created as a test to determine if youth aged 13 – 18 would be susceptible to accepting a friend request from a total stranger.  The results of the test are being collected in an effort to study the attitudes and actions of teenagers who use social networking sites.

Some initial findings from the study.

  • 57% of teens aged 12 – 18 easily accepted a friend request from a complete stranger. 
  • 90% of all teens who accepted the friend request did so within 24 hours.
  • As more friends within a circle of trust (a school community) accepted the stranger’s friend request, the rate of acceptance increased.
  • Less than 3 % of the teens probed the friend request with a question such as “Do I know you?”

The conclusion was that the threshold of accepting friend requests from strangers is rather low.  Additionally that threshold decreased as it appears more peers had already accepted the stranger.  When asked about this, many students would respond “I accepted the request from Les because 40 of my friends had already accepted.”  The consistent perception was that they should accept the request because others had.  As a parent I would have responded “If they jump off the bridge would you follow also?

After the results of the initial study were shared with the students, the students completed a questionnaire about their personal use of social networks.  The results of that questionnaire will be shared in another post.