I-TEAM: That harmless selfie you just took is not as harmless as you think

Published: Feb. 3, 2020 at 4:51 PM EST
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Monday, Feb. 3, 2020

News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) – A picture, as they say, is worth 1,000 words. But a picture on social media is worth much more in the wrong hands.

Behind every photo you snap and every selfie you take is hidden data -- data which could lead bad guys straight to your home or child's school.

Let’s talk to Sarah Rees at the Georgia Cyber Center. We even took a selfie with her to mark the occasion.

"So here is our selfie, but you see these three dots in the corner? This is where I can see details about this photo,” Rees said, showing us just how easy it is to find the exact spot where we snapped the photo.

Each photo you take, every selfie you post contains metadata. With that data, you can see what time we took our selfie, what kind of camera we used, and where the photo was taken.

"I can just click on that and put it into Google Maps, and it’s so accurate we can see which end of the building we are in, so it’s a lot of information to be sharing if you are posting things on social media.”

Anybody, anywhere can click on the picture to find you in real time.

“They can use things like [EXIF data] and metadata to gather a timeline of where you are,” Rees said.

Want to see where I work? I snapped this picture on Jan. 16 and posted it on Facebook. I download the pic from social media and pulled it up into a metadata app that I downloaded. It was clear, according to the app, that I snapped the photo right at the WRDW Studios.

"When you take a photo, you are sharing with the world where it was taken and where you were, so it's something really to think about especially for kids,” Rees said.

"Basically, you are looking for your settings, and in these settings I am going to find apps -- you can disable this in certain apps like Instagram or Facebook, but to be really safe if you have photos that you upload to multiple types of platforms, disable it from your camera because the camera is not inputting that."

All you need to do is turn off the GPS locator on social media on your smart phone camera.

"So I am going to go to my camera settings and find location tags,” Rees said. “This is left on for demonstration purposes, but I would turn this off and it would not capture location data as it takes photos."

You need to check your camera settings after each time phone update. Updates can throw the settings back to the default settings with the GPS location on.

So, how do you turn off the setting?

On iPhone:

1. Go to Settings

2. Click on privacy-location services:

a. Click on camera then " never"

b. Click on Facebook then "never"

c. Click on Instagram then "never"

d. Click on Twitter then "never"

On Android:

1. Open the camera app on your Android device and go to Settings by tapping the Gear icon. This varies from phone to phone as there’s no standard camera app on all Android devices.

2. After that turn off Store location data to prevent geotagging of photos. This option may have a slightly different wording but it’s there in pretty much every Android phone’s camera app.

Copyright 2019 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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