As a parent, you do everything you can to keep your kids safe. But what if you are giving out information that could lead a would-be kidnapper or stalker, right to them? Thursday, we looked into how some social media and smart phone applications use tracking information to locate people. Our Kat De Maria sat down with a parent to discuss the impact on her family.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- This is Sally. She has family in several states and friends all over the world. Like many parents, Sally likes to share updates about her two teen daughters and younger son.
"We've shared photos of Sam when he's gone to hockey games or played basketball or our daughters when one of them has done something at school," Sally said.
The problem is that more than just her children's grandparents may see the pictures. Recent changes to Facebook opened a lot of information to friends of friends and Facebook has gotten into tracking.
"Especially if you're using Facebook from your phone, which a lot of people are starting to do now, is that it will geolocate anything from your status updates to your photos or anything, unless you turn that service off," said Kate Brodock, SU Digital and Social Media Executive Director.
Sally says she and her family disabled Facebook's location service. But if it were active, information included in a photo would look like this with exact GPS coordinates. This location is in our YNN studios. But what if it wasn't?
"You do need to think about things like, oh, I've just geolocated my child at my house doing x event and now a lot of people can see that that child lives there," Brodock said.
Information about someone is easy enough to come by on the internet without the help of the person themselves. During a short search, I was able to find Sally's maiden name, age, husband's name and age, where they live, with a picture, previous places they've lived, what kind of pet they have and Sally's relatives and hobbies. That's all before I checked Facebook.
I am not Sally's friend, but could see her friends list and several pictures. That gave me the kids' name and access to lots more information about them.
But let's stick to the pictures. This first day of school photo shows Sally's son with his ID card. I zoomed in to see how much of it I could read off of the photo, but, luckily, couldn't make out any. Just in case I didn't know what school district the kids attend, this photo told me and this one shows exactly where they take the bus.
Sally's Twitter is completely private, as is her daughter's, and both girls' Facebooks don't tell me anything but their name.
Sally and her family don't use Foursquare, but Syracuse University’s social and digital media director says parents of kids and teens who do have added concerns.
"Making sure your children aren't creating a venue for their room that's then a publicly available Foursquare venue and making sure they're not doing things like checking in to a lot of places," Brodock said.
Sally says she does have privacy in the back of her mind when she shares pictures and more with loved ones.
"I do. I'm concerned there might be people outside my network of friends who might gain access to those photos and might want to start looking at the kids more and more," Sally said.
The social media director says the best defenses are education about programs, applications and their privacy settings and deciding how much risk is worth the generous reward of sharing with the people you love.