News 12 On Your Side: Tracking You Down on Instagram

By: Elizabeth Owens Email
By: Elizabeth Owens Email

AUGUSTA, GA-- A feature on Instagram can lead strangers straight to your front door. It only took minutes for News 12 On Your Side to track a teenage girl to her location from a single picture she posted on Instagram.

Instagram is a photo sharing social networking site with more than 50 million users. People use the app on their smarttphones to snap pictures, add filters, upload and share it with their friends. However, geo tags can also make it easy for strangers to track the users down.

"Don't tag photos of your home," Patrick King of USC Aiken warned. "Instagram has the potential of being very dangerous for people who don't realize what they're sharing," he said.

Geotag is a setting on Instagram that pinpoints on map the location of the picture. The hashtag of a picture can also display personal information. Hashtags are a one one word description people use to categorize their pictures and any use location or friends names on it.

News 12 On Your Side tracked 17 year old Rachel Caldwell to her boyfriend's home using a single picture she posted a month ago.

Elizabeth Owens: "Hi you're Rachel?"
Rachel Caldwell: "Yeah."
Elizabeth Owens: "This is your boyfriend right?
Rachel Caldwell: "Yeah."
Elizabeth Owens: "And this is his house right?"
Rachel Caldwell: "Yeah"
Elizabeth Owens : "And you live on (redacted) drive?"
Rachel Caldwell: "Yeah."

News 12 On Your Side found Caldwell at her boyfriend's house who had geotagged one of his pictures linked to her account. We also knew where her grandparents lived from another picture.

Elizabeth Owens: "I even knew you were a lifeguard. W lifeguard, where your grandparents live, where your boyfriend lives, where you live."
Rachel Caldwell: "That's great."

"Shocked. Shocked truly," Michael Caldwell said. Rachel's father was nearly speechless when we told him everything we knew about his daughter. "Not knowing you at all and you have so much information in a matter of a few minutes about my child is disturbing," Caldwell said.

Caldwell is even more disturbed because he knows exactly what someone could do with that kind of personal information. He works in federal security. "Only certain things a child would know and could not distinguish whether or not this is a true stranger or a family member. It's very disturbing," he said.

Here's how you can protect yourself and your family members from a stranger tracking you down through Instagram.

-Disable the geotag setting on your smartphone. You will find the geotag under setting on your Instagram app.
-Keep your hashtags nonspecific. Do not mention names or locations.
For example: Instead of "lizowens# home.#cookout#FourthofJuly# friends" put "#cookout#FourthofJuly#friends."ut something like "cookout fourth ofjuly friends."

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