It seems like every few days there is a news report encouraging consumers to take steps to protect themselves against crime. From burglary prevention tips to suggestions about locking car doors, the advice is everywhere. It includes advice about posting photos online.
Vivint Smart Home, a leading provider of home security systems and smart home devices, is a big proponent of being cautious with online photos. They use their blog to remind consumers to be very careful about what they post online. According to Vivint, online photos can give criminals a ton of helpful information.
Time and Location Information
One of the biggest issues with online photos is that they may contain revealing information like date, time, and location. That’s because most smartphone camera apps have timestamp and location data enabled by default. Whenever you take a photo, that information is embedded in the photo’s meta-information.
Let’s say you take a photo of yourself enjoying the beach at your favorite Caribbean resort. You post online where it is seen by friends, family, and burglars. A burglar can download that photo and then check its properties in either Windows or iOS. The date stamp tells them when the photo was taken while GPS coordinates tell them exactly where you were when you took it.
That burglar instantly knows you are not home. They know you and your significant other are on vacation. Now they can go to your social media profile and look for other pictures that may give them the location of your home. You are suddenly a burglary target.
Information About Your Home
You can avoid the previous issue by going into your camera app and turning off both location data and timestamp. That’s a good first step. But even with those features turned off, your photos can tell criminals a lot. Consider pictures taken around your house.
How many of us carefully consider what ends up in the frames of our pictures? Most of us don’t. We might take pictures of family members during a birthday party, never realizing that the pictures also show a house loaded with enticing electronics. Thieves don’t care that your grandmother Bertha is in the picture. They are looking at the brand-new TV in the background.
Criminals can also analyze pictures to learn how careful people are about home security. If they see a home that is not kept up very well, they are willing to take the chance that its owner isn’t very careful.
Information About Your Family Members
Even more disturbing is the fact that the photos you post online could tell criminals about your family members. Pictures of the kids getting on the bus could tell potential abusers where they go to school. The same goes for pictures showing the kids in their school uniforms.
Speaking of uniforms, a picture of your spouse in their work uniform could tip criminals off to their place of employment. Additional information shared innocently could make matters worse by revealing their regular work schedule.
Use Extreme Caution
The best way to avoid being victimized by your online photos is to simply not post them. If you want people to see your vacation photos, invite them over for dinner and show them on your TV.
If you absolutely must post online, turn off location data and timestamp features. Be extremely cautious about what is in the frame of each picture. Finally, do not post any pictures that could inadvertently reveal important information about yourself, your family members, or your home. Criminals know how to use your online photos against you. They do it all the time.