FBI Issues Warning to the Websites For Mobile Users Who Send Photos Over the Internet

Some messages just require you stop, take note, and share with your readers.  As you well know, this site is devoted to the advantages for small businesses to have separate websites for mobile phones in their marketing mix.

Today we’ll take a breather from our normal mode of offering great prices on a mobile website for your business and instead, “take your breath away” with this information from the FBI.  That said, when I saw James Myers’ article this morning in the PottsdownPatch, it was obvious this message needs to get around, so please SHARE this article with your friends.

 

The FBI is warning citizens with smartphones to be wary of posting photos from your mobile device. You may be sharing more than just a pretty picture.

With the ubiquitous presence of smartphones and social media platforms in all of our lives, sharing photos has never been easier. Millions of pictures are uploaded to the Web every day and camera-enabled mobile phones are the perennial top-selling consumer electronic devices. So it’s a safe bet that even more photos will be cropping up on image-hosting communities and personal websites.

But what exactly is being shared?

websites for mobile users, FBI Warning, metatags, location, photos

Click On Picture To Read FBI Full Report

According to a release issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in some cases, you might unwittingly be letting others know where you live and work and your travel patterns and habits. These details can be revealed through bits of information embedded in images taken with smartphones and some digital cameras and then shared on public websites. The information, called metadata, often includes the times, dates and geographical coordinates (latitude and longitude) where images are taken.

While the geospatial data can be helpful in myriad web applications that plot image locations, it also opens a door for criminals, including burglars, stalkers, and predators. It’s not a stretch to imagine young teens’ images of their ventures to the mall or beach being culled by web predators and meticulously plotted on online maps.

“It’s not something we think is happening. We know it’s happening,” said Kevin Gutfleish, head of the Innocent Images Intelligence Unit in the FBI’s Cyber Division. The unit provides analysis and assessments of emerging threats for the operational arm of the Innocent Images National Initiative, which targets child pornography and sexual predators.

“The way that images are being posted in real time allows others who have access to see the metadata and see where the photos were taken and reveal their location at that time,” Gutfleish said.

An intelligence analyst in the FBI Criminal Division’s Crimes Against Children Unit said these details can reveal a “pattern of life,” particularly when images posted over time are clustered in geographic locations.

“It doesn’t have to be in real time to be dangerous,” said the analyst. “Historical data can tell you a lot about individuals’ day-to-day habits and may indicate where they are most likely to be at a certain time.”

Some popular social media sites automatically scrub metadata from images before they are published. On the other hand, some leverage the data to display location information beside the images. An amateur sleuth could easily pinpoint a location using the available latitude and longitude coordinates.

“Even if they don’t intentionally say where they are, the photos could reveal that,” Gutfleish said. “And that could present a potential danger.”

Gutfleish said he has seen an increase in intelligence reports and complaints about the potential misuse of the metadata embedded in photos. He said the proliferation of online tools that aggregate personal information from social networking and image hosting sites is enough to urge a level of caution.

He suggests mobile phone users at the very least check the “options” or “settings” on their phones (and any applicable mobile applications) to see if they are sharing location information. In many cases, the default setting is to share location information.

“It’s just a best-practice if you don’t want to give out your location,” Gutfleish says. “We simply want to make sure people know this is happening.”

Disabling the Location Function

Disabling the photo geotagging function on mobile phones varies by manufacturer, but is generally a straightforward process. On the most current iPhone model, users can simply find the “Location Services” toggle in there “Settings folder.”

The path to location-based services options varies from phone to phone. Users should take special care when enabling or disabling location services (which may include navigation functions), or disabling applications (like photos) accessing the GPS data. Consult your phone manufacturer’s guidelines for more information.

 

More on Websites for Mobile Users Warning

Thank you to the PottstownPatch for this article.  Click on the link, websites for mobile users warning, to read the full article.

Please help us get the word out about the danger of innocently sharing your habits by virtue of simply sharing your photos with your family and friends while using your mobile phone.  If you are glad we brought this to your attention, please LIKE us and do SHARE this with your friends.

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