Smartphones: A stalker's/criminal's best friend?
Is your cellphone camera's GPS locator turned on?
Your morning workout, posted. That gourmet pizza you made? On Instagram -- no filter. And that adorable photo of your four-legged friend? You already have eight 'likes.'
But you could be sharing way more than just your favorite photos -- and with folks you'd rather never meet or cross paths with.
"It's as easy as calling up Google Maps, typing in the GPS location, and Google Maps will tell right where you were standing, within feet," explained COCC Computer Information Systems instructor Eric Magidson.
Sharing our lives is so easy in a tech savvy world -- and experts say it doesn't take a computer whiz to stalk someone online.
"They can right-click on a file, such as a picture, and get the properties of the GPS location information," Magidson said.
Yep, the GPS many use to get around could be the very tool someone uses to follow you around.
"No. I didn't even know about that -- kind of freaky," said Bend resident Monica Huey.
Although many in Bend said they've heard of the technology, not everyone is too concerned.
"It's on," said COCC freshman Gabriela Candia. "It shows where I took the pictures, like if I tag certain ones at school, and if I post them on Facebook."
And for all us who like to share, there's an easy way to protect yourself: Make sure your locations services on your camera application is off.
"On the Android, by default, the setting for the GPS tags are off," Magidson said.
In preparation for this story, I uploaded a few photos to Facebook with my GPS location services switched to on -- but the location of the photos never did show up.
Experts say many social media sites now automatically block GPS metadata from appearing.
However, Magidson said if location services is turned on on Facebook, then photos, posts and messages are fair game. He said it's not just a city tag that shows up -- all the information for your exact address is available.
"Unfortunately, companies like Facebook make it so easy to say, 'Oh, look where I'm at!' that the information is already there and available," he said.
And some parents say as more technology becomes available, there are more precautions people need to take.
"I do turn the location settings off," said one mom.
Others say living in fear of the unlikely isn't worth it.
"I think that if bad people are going to be bad, they're going to find a way to do it," Huey said.
Still, a simple swipe was a wake-up call for some who say they're now more cautious online.
"We've reconsidered how much and what we post, just for the safety of the kids," another parent said.
For step-by-step instructions on how you can disable your GPS location services on your phone you can visit: http://icanstalku.com (the site says it's 'closed' but if you click on 'why' it will give directions.
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