Cybercasing – How Sharing Your Pics, Videos and Status Updates Can Get You Into Trouble

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It can be fun ‘checking in’ at your favourite restaurant on Facebook, sharing pics of your hotel room on Instagram or buying and selling items on eBay. In fact – it can give you quite a buzz. But did you know that ‘geotagging’ (sharing your location via your pics or videos) can put you and your possessions at risk??

In fact there is such concern about the effects of geotagging that researchers have developed a new term – cybercasing. Cybercasing refers to how geotagged text, photos and videos can be used by criminals and other negatively motivated 3rd parties.

Researchers at the International Computer Science Institute in California used information on sites like Craigslist (think Ebay), Twitter and YouTube and cross referenced it with publicly available online content to identify the exact home addresses of potential victims (with GPS-level accuracy) within minutes!!!!!!!!!

In their report “Cybercasing the Joint: On the Privacy Implications of Geotagging“, the researchers confirm that our love affair with smartphones is the biggest factor in the rapid spread of location-based services but often without our knowledge. Many consumers don’t know their information is being shared as many smartphones will automatically ‘geotag’ a user’s image or video. Turning geotagging off requires users to manually opt out which can actually be a complicated process.

But that is only part of the problem. What is even more troubling is the huge amount of user friendly geotagging search programs that can sift through geo-tagged data and provide users with accurate locations within a metre.

So, what can we do to protect our home and valuables and avoid being ‘cybercased’?

  • Turn off your location services on your smartphone, if possible.
  • Don’t Tweet or make status updates about a holiday while you are there
  • Don’t post your holiday photos until you have returned
  • Don’t outline the times you will be home when selling items on Ebay


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