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.

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