There’s a pretty good chance that most of you use social media. There’s an even better chance that your kids do (if you have any, of course). It’s also likely that your kids are a little more advanced when it comes to knowing about and using social media. All of this may sound like common-sense stuff, but just as likely as all of these probabilities is that both you and your kids are unknowingly risking your family’s security in the process.
No, I’m not some doom-saying Luddite (although that’s really a misused term) that’s going to tell you to stop using social media or the internet. We all know that the NSA is peeking it’s head over our fences, but you can’t just stop living in the modern world (at least most people can’t). However, it’s always smart to know exactly what you’re engaging in and what you’re sharing with others when you go online or use social media. Specifically, I want to address the geotagging feature that people rend to ignore when they’re posting a never-ending stream of pictures to their Instagram or other accounts.
Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?
We’ve all seen the posts that we or our friends put up of pictures taken somewhere with the tags saying so-and-so was at some location, often with so-and-so as well. There’s nothing wrong with that, and most people want that information listed – it’s part of what they’re wanting to share. The problem is that you probably didn’t have to turn some feature on to make that happen, it just did. If you stop and think about that, it means that every single picture that you – or more importantly, your kids – uploads can have the information of your whereabouts and your routines.
Trust me when I say that there are plenty of ne’er-do-wells out there who would love to have that information about you or your kids, and they can find it whenever they want through the geotagging in these posts. The image below shows an example taken from my own posts we pulled in from Instagram showing my post activity, needless to say I am a professional, and I am aware of the geotagging, and I turn it off for posts from my house.
Be Smart and Be Safe
The good news is that you can do something about this. The first thing you should do is to check the geotagging settings on each social network you post to, as well as the same settings on the smartphone you’re likely taking the pictures with. Generally it’s pretty easy to turn these settings on or off, so you can keep them off except when you’re sure that you want to use them. Think about the possibly hundreds or thousands of pictures your kids have been sending off to their favorite networks, each showing their location at a specific time. That’s a lot of breadcrumbs for a bad guy to follow, begin working from this day forward to avoid geotagging from home.
Apart from the geotagging features, it’s also smart to check out and review the security and privacy policies for each social network you use and your own settings in these areas. You might even figure out how to stop getting so many minor notifications every time your cousin’s girlfriend likes something in Facebook. Bottom line is that you should enjoy our modern age, but do it the way you should really do anything else – smartly and safely.
Just read a great article by Jennifer Jeanne Patterson @unplannedcookin that emphasizes even further how the digital trail we are leaving can come back to haunt us. With the Hack of Ashley Madison (The website that acts as a matchmaker for adults looking to have an affair) the author explores all the ways her digital trail could affect her kids. This just shows that it’s not just your kids that you need to worry about on oversharing, but re-evaluate how you may be oversharing and exposing yourself and your family to risk. Read the article I’m on the Ashley Madison database, and it’s changed what I share about my kids
Mitch Neff says
Great post, Antony. This is something that is completely an afterthought all to often for many families. I have known a couple people who had their house broken into the day they left for vacation – it turned out to be kids their daughter went to school with who saw her posts coming from a different state.
We like to think of the convenience and ease (or even social proof) of geo-tagging posts and images without thinking of the security implications. Those implications become even more serious and heinous when considering the amount of stalkers who are targeting kids via social, many times across apps that allow geo-tagging combined with anonymous user profiles – a pretty scary combo from a security perspective.