Friday, August 13, 2010

I CAN STALK U!! - WEB Photos that give your Home Address etc!

Uploading a photo taken by some smartphones to Facebook, a blog, Twitter and other social networks or other places on the Internet can actually reveal sensitive information like where you live without you even realising it.

Smartphones such as I-phones by default tags photos with GPS coordinates. Tech savvy persons can extract the location from the picture's metadata, then look up the GPS coordinates stored in the photo's EXIF tag and get an address. Stalkers, crazy ex-spouses, vengeful mobsters and other creepy types can do this also. It seems to be a useful tool for law enforcement officials so gangsters, beware!

Who knew that simply shelling out top dollar for a cool mobile phone that keeps you connected to the Internet while on the go, is an entertainment hub with music videos, movies and hundreds of tunes at your fingertips, provides Instant messaging features among other hi-teck features that you would also be purchasing a security risk that could endanger you and your family? Serious food for thought.

According to Wikipedia, Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification metadata to various media such as photographs, video, websites, or RSS feeds and is a form of geospatial metadata. These data usually consist of latitude and longitude coordinates, though they can also include altitude, bearing, distance, accuracy data, and place names. It is commonly used for photographs.

However, few people are tech savvy and the feature embedded in the phones are not that easy to turn off or disable as an article in Yahoo Finance pointed out. "I’d say very few people know about geotag capabilities,” said Peter Eckersley, a staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, “and consent is sort of a slippery slope when the only way you can turn off the function on your smartphone is through an invisible menu that no one really knows about.”

"Indeed, disabling the geotag function generally involves going through several layers of menus until you find the “location” setting, then selecting “off” or “don’t allow.” But doing this can sometimes turn off all GPS capabilities, including mapping, so it can get complicated." The article continued.

The article says a website: provides step-by-step instructions for disabling the photo geotagging function on iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Palm devices. However, the website was disabled & offline when OUT ((LOUD!)) visited.  However, a Twitter Account with the same name is up and running and replete with a dark scary looking masked face with glowing eyes; it threatens: I CAN STALK YOU! the last tweet which was updated 16 minutes before OUT ((LOUD!)) visited claimed: "Last located person: @laurenfromtexas located nearby 2666 N University Dr Nacogdoches TX due to GeoTags #icanstalku #privacy #fail" The previous post made almost simultaneously stated: Over the past hour: 3322 tweets scanned, 1887 pictures checked, 46 stalked, 76 errors #geotags #privacy #fail.

WOW! this person IS actively stalking! Finding photos uploaded to Twitter and identifying where they were taken and tweeting that info while also sending a tweet to the persons who uploaded the photos as an alert to their vulnerability. Hmmm.,.. one wonders: Does this dude..(Cause I know its a guy!! LOL) have a day job!!?? Who pays him to do this! 

It is interesting to note that while he has STALKED 46 persons within an hour, he has only 32 followers and he is NOT actively following anyone on Twitter.. he only 'stalks' them by scanning their photos, identifying where they were taken and shouting it OUT ((LOUD!)). OK THEN! Folks, cyberspace is scary! Believe that!

In highlighting the 'ripple' effect of the tattletale geotagging feature, a handful of academic researchers and independent Web security analysts, who call themselves “white hat hackers,” have been trying to raise awareness about geotags by releasing studies and giving presentations at technology get-togethers like the Hackers On Planet Earth, or Next HOPE, conference held last month in New York.

Many of the pictures with the geotags they used as part of their presentations showed people’s children playing in or around their homes. Others revealed expensive cars, computers and flat-screen televisions. There are also pictures of people at their friends’ houses or at the Starbucks they visit each morning.

Protecting your privacy is not just a matter of being aware and personally responsible, said Mr. Sommer, one of the researchers. "A friend may take a geotagged photo at your house and post it. You need to educate yourself and your friends but in the end, you really have no control,” he said, adding that he was considering writing a program to troll the Internet for photos with geotags corresponding to users’ home addresses. Well! the I CAN STALK YOU!  Guy seems to have beaten him to it! LOL

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