You wouldn't want stranger or, worse, a stalker to know where you and your loved ones are at all times. It turns out your smartphone might be doing that for you.
Cyberstalking is nothing new, but a setting on your phone is making it easier than ever. In the time it takes to snap a single picture, a stranger can learn your exact location.
"Metadata is the info that's encoded into photos. Any stranger could come into a child's bedroom through that computer," said Sgt. Raymond Spencer with Metro's Sexual Assault Section.
Spencer is talking about a setting on smartphones which can reveal your private life to cyberstalkers.
"Whenever you take a picture with any smartphone, it encodes the GPS data in the picture that gives the actual location of where you were when you took the photograph," Spencer said.
If you fail to disable metadata when you send an email or upload a photo online, you become immediately vulnerable. Several websites can easily break down a picture's code to real-time information.
"I can tell specifically where you were in the house, in a park or in a school," Spencer said.
A stalker could even piece together a timeline of photos to determine a person's schedule, from work to sports practice to where your bedroom is located in your home.
The consequences could be dire.
Earlier this year in Las Vegas, police said a 15-year-old girl was tracked by 22-year-old Ana Victoria Taylor, who had been posing as a teenager on meetme.com.
Police said the victim was sexually assaulted by Taylor and her boyfriend, 36-year-old Simon Tam.
If a victim can't be tricked into contact, police warn perpetrators can use metadata to simply show up where he or she is located.
Police said the assault victim didn't tell her father about the attack due to their strained relationship.
Police say the best thing for parents to do is gain a thorough understanding of the risks of social media, especially where smartphones are involved.
To learn how to disable the tracking function for photos on your smartphone, click here.
Copyright 2013 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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