Smartphone users may be giving away personal information without even knowing

Post, tag, tweet, like; for many of us, it’s part of our daily routine. But, we may be unknowingly sharing private information along with each snapshot.

“Every picture you take, there’s a geo-tagging location, and people can find out where the picture was taken,” said Valentina Escobar-Gonzalez, a marketing consultant with Beyond Engagement.

Escobar-Gonzalez uses her expertise to help companies amp up their social media profiles to gain more exposure, but she said she’s also seen first-hand how high-exposure social media can hurt the average person.

“A lot of people don’t realize it and then they’re tagging their location without people noticing, like I said, on my phone I can find all the places I’ve frequently visited,” Escobar-Gonzalez told News Channel 11.

“I think it’s the world we live in, they can find information in so many ways, even if you stay off facebook, i don’t think that’s enough to keep you safe,” said Maria McClain, a Tri-Cities mother.

Maria, and her husband, Aaron, have four children, and say protecting them online is something they constantly think about.

“Is that something you worry about, hackers getting hold of photos and finding out where your children live?” reporter Aniseh Hamour asked McClain. “Definitely, and they can manipulate those photos to do whatever they wish with them, and that’s the big problem,” Aaron McClain responded.

Escobar-Gonzalez said social media giants like Facebook and Instagram have recently added features to protect the location information associated with photos, but adds the problem goes deeper than that.

She said for those who don’t turn the GPS tracker on their smartphones off, their every move is recorded.

“Systems services right here, and you will scroll down and see frequent locations and it will tell you all of the locations you’ve been to and how many times you’ve been there,” she said. “Supposedly its not being shared with third parties, its kept within the phone, but its telling me I’ve been to Johnson City “x” amount of times, Kingsport, the specific street I’ve been on,” Escobar-Gonzalez continued.

“I don’t worry so much about myself as I do our four kids,” Aaron McClain said. His wife agreed, “In the world we live in, I think a lot of people can find out stuff they don’t need to.”

Maria said she tries to remember to keep the GPS on her phone off. “Especially if I’m taking a picture, it’ll remind me to turn the GPS tracking off, and then of course when you need it, it’s easy to remember to turn it on,” she said.

And as their kids get older, the McClains said they plan to monitor them closely.

“The parent needs to know the settings of what they’re doing on their cell phones, what are the settings, and let them know, ‘this location setting is important, why don’t you keep that off?’” Aaron McClain told News Channel 11.

And Escobar-Gonzalez said protecting your private information can be that simple, she recommends people go into their privacy settings, and switch the GPS tracker to “off.”

While Facebook and Instagram no longer store location data in each image you upload, Escobar-Gonzalez said anyone with a little bit of hacking know-how can easily find out where each photo was taken, down to the specific room in your home, another reason to keep track of when your GPS is turned “on.”

Copyright WJHL 2015. All rights reserved.

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