3OYS: Sharing smartphone photos can be safety risk

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Many of us use smartphones and social media regularly, and that means many of us are inadvertently divulging our personal information.

Jenny Collins said she and her two daughters, 13-year-old Karagan and 9-year-old Makenna, frequently use their smartphones and iPads to "capture everyday moments."

"They'd freak out if they didn't have them," Collins said. "It's their whole life."

But sharing photos on social media can make it frighteningly easy for strangers to learn a lot about you.

"What you're doing is making it very easy for predator to look at an image and say, 'OK, there's my target, there's where they live, here's where they go to school,' " said Ken Colburn, a computer and technology expert who runs Data Doctors. "You're making it very, very easy for a predator to kind of set you up.”

To illustrate his point, Colburn had Collins take an ordinary picture of her children in the family living room. Collins then sent that photo from her phone to Colburn.

With just a few simple clicks, Colburn was able to pinpoint her home on a map.

"When you have the location information turned on, you also get longitude and latitude," Colburn explained. "You're going to make it real easy for them to build a pattern around what you do, so whether they want to burglarize you or try and perpetrate some predatory activity, you're going to make it easier."

Even if you have adjusted your security settings to prevent sharing your location, those settings can change when you update your smartphone apps or software.

"There's been predators for years and years, but it was never this easy," Collins said. "That's what scares me; it's too easy now."

Colburn advised parents to become familiar with the location information for the apps their children use.

Shutting off location information only takes a few steps. On most smartphones and tablets, you can turn off your location by going to "settings," then "privacy," and finally "location services."

You can also change the location options for individual apps. While location services are necessary for your maps app, they can be turned off for Facebook and Twitter, for example.

"It's terrifying to me," Collins said. "I mean you want to try and keep your kids safe the best that you can and it's such an innocent thing; they're just taking a picture."