SOMEWHERE IN Utah (ABC 4 News) – If you're one of the 500,000,000 people who “facebooks" or one of the 75,000,000 people who “tweets,” you may be letting your smart phone outsmart you and make you a potential crime victim.
One of the very capabilities that makes your phone smart makes you vulnerable every time you turn it on and especially when you send a message over the Internet. More and more stalkers are using tracking software to read the information behind the messages, pictures and videos to see exactly where you are when you send them.
"Some bad person, they've just fished your account and they do very malicious things with your account,” says Dan Young “so you want to be very careful with that."
Young may be one of the most tech savvy people in Utah. He has built a small dynasty in Utah repairing, assembling and selling computers. Even he admits he had to take a crash course in "geo-tagging" when we asked him to show us how bad guys use it and how the rest of us can be victimized by it.
"How we can tell is we use our little secret software, right? And we try to view the data," he says as he activates a program he found on the web and downloaded to his personal computer, free of charge. Neither he nor ABC 4 will disclose the name of the software, so we don’t make this article a tutorial for would-be bad guys.
What this and several other readily available softwares can do is enable someone to read the information behind almost any message you send to someone’s e-mail address or to a social networking website such as facebook or Twitter. With the software, someone can see the latitude and longitude. All they have to do then is load the coordinates into any mapping program – Google Maps, Yahoo Maps or Mapquest – and pinpoint your exact location.
Dan e-mailed a picture a dining partner took of him at arestaurant this week. Using the locator software he had downloaded, helooked behind the image. There it was – the latitude and longitude ofthe location of the picture, even down to the direction the camera waspointing when the photo was snapped.
“The data tells any stalker the exact seat I was sitting in,” he says.
Wedecided to field test Dan's new skill. We asked ABC 4 producerMarchelle Lee to “tweet” from her location, somewhere in the Salt LakeValley.
Dan grabbed her picture and looked behind it. Then, we called her.
"Hello?" she answered with a tone of apprehension in her voice.
"Hi Marchelle,” I said. “It's Jon and Dan. We can tell you where you are."
"Do you know where I am?" she asked.
"When you tweeted you were on I-15, just south of 106th. Correct?"
"Yea, yea we were,” she said. “We were in the South Town Auto Mall. So that's exactly where we were."
"Does that give you the creeps, at least a little bit, Marchelle?" I asked.
"Well,I use social media a lot for work,” she responded. “And it creeps meout that somebody can use my twitter picture or my facebook picture andthey can spot me in a parking lot."
Marchelle was nervous about being stalked, even though it was a demonstration by a co-worker.
Thereis a bit of comforting news. It is easier to prevent your smart phonefrom announcing your location than it is to track you.
Here’s what you do:
Goto your “settings” menu in your device. Then, choose the “security” or“location” function. It will ask you if you want to enable it. Touchthe option that either “yes” or that removes the check mark in the box.
Disablingyour GPS function in your smart phone will shut down it’s ability tonavigate an address. You’ll have to enable the function again to dothat.
To make sure your pictures and messages are not geo-tagged onfacebook, Twitter or any social networking site, Young recommends alittle known website.
The site displayseasy to follow tutorials on how to prevent your favorite socialnetworking site from displaying to the entire world -- or at least thatunwanted follower -- your exact location, even down to the chair you’resitting in right now.