Stroudsburg, Monroe County - With just a few keystrokes someone can use your public photos to grab private information. It's information criminals can use against you.
Jonathan Weber owns Internet Company Marathon Studios. He encourages people to be cautious. He said, "There's no reason to have any more information than absolutely necessary available for everybody to see."
Christine, a woman from Monroe County, allowed Eyewitness News to look into her children's online photos. Weber quickly found photos of her teenage daughter publically available on social networking sites. He noticed many pictures of what appear to be underage drinking with her friends. Christine reacted, "That's not something that they should be so proud about."
But that wasn't the worst thing. Christine found it disturbing that people could track her daughter through public photos. Just by looking at photo details Weber was able to see where she goes to school and where she goes to party. In one photo, he noticed a partial name of a bar where the teen posed with friends. Weber added, "I was then able to use that partial name and the location. I was able to find out the general area she was in to find the actual place she was at and the actual event that she was attending."
He warned that stalkers can track people who post photos from the same place every week. Christine agreed, "Predictability is probably one of the things that young people don't take seriously. That it's very easy to find you if you are very predictable."
While the details visible in photos can help criminals, so can the invisible details. Photos you take with smart phones (and many modern digital cameras) have invisible data embedded in them. It's called meta date or exif data. It can tell people where you took the photo. "That meta data can be as exact as your position within three feet," noted Weber.
He took a picture of a family off a blog to demonstrate how easy it is for a stalker to find someone. He said, "Like a picture of your kids. If you copy this image, you go over to a freely available online tool to view the metadata that is associated with it, within seconds you scroll down and we have a satellite map showing the exact location at which that photo was taken. Which looks like the residential address where these people live."
Christine now plans to talk to her children about what she learned. She said, "This is the new way of the world. The world is a very small accessible place and no one is safe."
The expert said young people often post photos that can put them in danger because they grew up with the internet and see it as a non threatening and vital part of life.
He also noted that the most popular social networking sites, Twitter and Facebook, remove metadata from photos to protect posters.
Most smart phones allow you to turn off the feature that embeds locations in your photos. Check your manual for instructions.
To see part one of the Eyewitness News special report "Easy Prey" click http://pahomepage.com/fulltext?nxd_id=320762