Cyber stalking and how to stop it


I have been reading a lot of information lately about cyberstalking on Facebook. It started from this news site. But, the media often over exaggerates threats. Did they this time? First the video:

Reactionary media? You decide!!!

Now the answer …

The answer is yes and no. First, let’s start with yes. Suppose you take a picture with a standard cell phone. In this case, here is a picture I took in Guanjuato, Mexico.

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Since this was taken on my phone, it has the EXIF data included. If I use an EXIF viewing tool, I can look at the data.

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And even see where the picture was taken in Google maps.

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The circle is the approximate location, while the GPS signal shows at the green arrow. So it is pretty close. Depending on your GPS settings and when it got its last fix, the picture can be pretty dead on.

According to the media report, people can take this information off social media and get information about your children and kidnap them. Lions and tigers and bears … oh my!!!

Solutions

So we know phones have geotag information. What should you do about it to protect your family.

Turn of Location on Your Phone

This is certainly one method that guarantees no geolocation information is on your pictures. It is the most extreme method, as you cannot use the information to remember where a picture was taken, but it protects you. Is it overkill? It depends, at least partially, on where you are posting.

The best way to find information for your phone is to search the phone type and then either turn off (location services|geotag) or remove (location services|geotag), if you would rather use a program to remove the information on photos already taken. As a quick method, check settings for location services and that usually solves it.

The bad thing is you might want geotags at some point in time.

Strip the information

In this case, I use Photoshop, but Photoshop Elements will also work.  To remove this information in Photoshop (Elements) you choose Shift+Alt+Cntl+S and save the image. If you are resizing the photos to a reasonable size for the web, you are already doing some editing, so this is not a huge step. Here is a screenshot of the save dialog.
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If you try to read the geotag, you will find the photo is now missing EXIF information, as you can see by the Parsing Error! message below.

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The same can be accomplished in Photoshop Elements for those not wishing to invest in a complete version of Photoshop. there is a cloud version now, by subscription, but if you are not using quite a few products, it is prohibitive.

There are also some other programs that can strip the information that you can find on Google.

Save to Facebook

Am I really suggesting this? Yes. Why? Facebook strips this information by default. I say by default, as I am not sure if you can turn it on. You can geotag the photo afterwards, but it will be by Facebook’s buckets. Proof?

First, let’s examine a photo I have on my computer. It is a picture of a cart someone left in a space.

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If I run the EXIF information on this photo, I get the Latitude and Longitude.

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Pretty much dead on in Google maps, as you can see by the Kroger Bakery symbol on the map:

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Now upload to Facebook.

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Now we can attempt to get the EXIF information in Firefox.

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And we see there is none.

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But what if someone saves the photo.

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And view the EXIF

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Summary

Geotagging photos is a useful feature, but you do have to determine whether or not it makes sense in your photos. Facebook already offers protection by stripping EXIF information from photos that are uploaded, but some other social media does not, so be sensible.

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