Researchers at Cal Berkeley have released a new tool as part of the International Computer Science Institute’s (ICSI) Teach Privacy initiative – a tool that should serve as a stark reminder to parents of the predator risk brought on by simply overlooking or misapplying some privacy settings on social media accounts.
The tool is called “Ready or Not”, and highlights the ease with which anyone can find your location if you are using Twitter or Instagram and your geotagging settings are set to “on”. Teach Privacy’s mission is education, but unfortunately releasing a tool such as this one could make it easier for predators to find victims.
According to Teach Privacy’s website:
“The growing use of social-networking sites like Facebook and YouTube, along with technical advances in data-retrieval techniques, are providing new opportunities to make use of people’s personal information–and those opportunities are equally available for both ethical and unethical uses.”
Geotagging, which we’ve written about before, is metadata added to a picture or other media or content, that identifies precisely where the user was located when they posted that content. Localscope, which we’ve also discussed before, uses the same data but differently; it will identify all users of Twitter, Instagram or other networks who have posted recently from within a certain radius of where your device is located.
In most predator risk cases that we see talked about, predators are only peripherally concerned with location – if a predator is lucky enough to initiate contact with a minor within a couple hundred miles of his location, that’s good enough. They will travel. With Ready or Not, or any tool that has access to Twitter or Instagram’s API and a victim’s user name, a predator can determine a precise location for that user.
Your teen or pre teen’s location should be closely guarded. Apps and services that allow users to “check in” (Facebook, foursquare etc.) should be avoided unless accounts are set to private. And as Ready or Not illustrates, minors with Twitter or Instagram accounts should turns geotagging off. Safety should be the primary concern.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.