Special Report: Protect Your Privacy - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Special Report: Protect Your Privacy

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

You have probably already used your cell phone today to post a picture of yourself or your surroundings to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

It has become the world's way of keeping up with friends and family.

But it can also be a criminal's way of keeping up with you, where you are, where you're going and what you're doing.

Your phone and the pictures you post give away sensitive information you don't want falling in the wrong hands.

We all know posting pictures of where we are lets people know how to find us. But, even if you aren't intentionally giving away where you are there is a function on your phone that will without you even knowing.

"I think the real danger comes when you don't know that the information's being shared. You don't know how it's being distributed," says Dr. Richard Chapman, Computer Science Professor at Auburn University.

What he taught about simply posting pictures online may surprise you.

"It's something that people may or may not be aware of," adds Chapman.

Smart phones have GPS technology. The cameras inside them do, too.

If that GPS function is on, the exact location of where you took the photo goes with it the minute it's posted online.

"Latitude, altitude, direction, time and date stamp, longitude," Dr. Chapman said..

It's called metadata.

"I just searched on the app store. I believe my search was photograph metadata," adds Chapman.

Within a matter of minutes Dr. Chapman found an app allowing him to take any picture from his computer or social media site and see the data linked to it.

"Everything's time stamped with date and time and location, where you were. If you're posting pictures of your children for example, that information will be available to someone who wanted it also," he says.

It has parents Matt and April Damato thinking twice about their social media use.

"It's unsettling because we're supposed to be their safety net," says mother April Damato. "If we're accidentally not making things safe for them, it's just kinda scary that you're just trying to do something fun for yourself and your family and that other people can track you that way."

Matt has already inactivated location settings in his camera phone.

"With technology the way it is today you've gotta be careful and ever mindful of the information being out there," adds Matt.

"The more that people know what control they have over their privacy, the better," adds Chapman.

Lessons learned all in an attempt to outsmart smart phones.

"Now that I'm aware of this information, I might post less than I do now," says April.

Experts say Facebook deletes GPS data from pictures posted to the website.

However, not all Internet sites do.

This issue has also gotten the attention of law enforcement officers who say GPS data from smart phones has been a factor in many domestic violence cases.

Copyright 2013  WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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