Localscope Exposes Minors to Predator Risk

localscopeAs a parent, you may not be fully up to speed on which apps your teen or tween is using, how the privacy settings on those apps work, or how they are set. (Related: social media and app resources for parents)

A new app called Localscope ups the predator risk level for your child if she is using certain apps and does not have the privacy settings and geolocation permissions locked down.

Localscope bills itself as a “location browser for your iPhone”. It’s a harmless app for innocent users who just want to find a restaurant or something to do close to where they are. If used by a predator, this app could expose your child to unnecessary risk.

Here’s how it works:

When a user opens the app, his device will determine the precise location of the user. If the user taps on the “search” function, he can look through a list of local restaurants, banks, gas stations etc. Results are then shown on a local map. This is the part of the app that is harmless.

When a user taps on the “discover” function, social media or app users nearby can be located by their location and account. For the purposes of protecting young users, parents should note that Localscope currently integrates results from Instagram, Picasa (pictures), Twitter and foursquare (location check ins).

instagram-geotagIn the picture on the right, the red pins are all recent activity by Instagram users in the immediate vicinity of our office in Flemington New Jersey. The picture highlighted appears to be of 4 young teen or pre teen girls. I’m sure their parents would be horrified.

In the case above, the girl who owns that Instagram account has it set at “public” (anyone can view her photos), and her geolocation tracking is on (adds photos to her, and other users’ Instagram map).

If minors have their accounts set to private, this is not an issue. If your teen or pre teen insists on having a public account, which we do not recommend, it is very important to have geotagging of photos turned off.

Variations on the same rule apply for Picasa, Twitter, foursquare or any other app which may lead unsavory characters to your front door, or places that your child frequently hangs out.

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.

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