CBS 3 in Philadelphia reported last night about local resident Al Butler, whose identity was stolen for use on international dating sites. As reported, criminals would create an account on international dating sites, post images of Mr. Butler taken from social media sites frequented by Mr. Butler, and pass themselves off as Mr. Butler. The “scam” would come when Fake Al Butler would ask for money from women he met on the dating site.
The CBS 3 report, originally airing in glorious HD and all of its facial pore, thinning hair glory, can be viewed here. As yours truly advised the CBS viewers, stealing online photos for the purpose of passing oneself off as that person while committing a crime is the cyberworld version of a classic scam.
What did not make the three minute segment is the realities of situations similar to those described in the report: what are you gonna do about it? Probably not much, which is why we all need to think about what photographs get posted.
We all see everyday friends and family posting personal photographs on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and similar social media sites. We read reports about how some of these services have tracking features to tell the world where you have been and where you are going. To a lot of people, sharing like this is fun.
What is often forgotten is where this type of sharing can lead. The obvious is that it is probably not a great idea to tell the world where you go and presently are. The foregoing sentence makes no sense to a lot of people, especially younger folks. But even those people that know bad things can come from location awareness are not aware how much information they actually do share.
What I think is often overlooked is geotagging. Geotagging is basically data embedded in your photograph that includes where the picture was taken. Many new cameras have this, as well as many smartphones (such as the iPhone). The location information of that photograph of you taken in a living room can be compared with the location information of that photograph of you taken in a backyard, which can then be compared with the location information of that photograph of you taken in a driveway. That geographical information matches, I may know where you live.
What about several photographs overtime that show you at the same location? I could probably figure out where that is and approximately what days and times you are there from the geotagging information. Those couple of photos of you in an office environment? Maybe I know where you live.
The point is to think about where and with whom we share photographs. Maybe it is enough that we share them only with our friends. Then again, those people can copy and forward those photographs to other friends, post them on their personal web site and otherwise put them places that you did not intend them to appear.