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Tracking Your Moves Through Social Media

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diana-web Diana Rocco
Diana Rocco joined the Eyewitness News team as a general assign...
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By Diana Rocco

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – By now, most people who use social media know they’re giving up some of their privacy. But you may be revealing more than you realize, as our Diana Rocco found out.

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are part of everyday life for most of us, but every time you post, you could be putting yourself at risk.

Privacy expert Gerald Friedland explained, “The internet never forgets. It is like an elephant. It only duplicates.”

For educational purposes, Friedland helped create a website that shows that even when you don’t reveal where you are, bits of GPS data called geotags can give away your location.

The website is called Ready or Not. Enter a username, and it shows you where that person was when they tweeted or posted an Instagram picture.

We put it to the test with a producer tracking me. In the car getting ready to leave the station for the day, I sent out the first tweet. Then I called our producer Amanda. She said, “I’ve pinpointed your location to be at the CBS 3 studios on Hamilton Street.”

My first stop was a coffee shop. Amanda said, “It looks like you’re at the coffee shop at 20th and Callowhill.”

Right again. Time after time, Ready or Not found us within seconds.

Geotagging isn’t 100 percent accurate all of the time, but it’s pretty close. Each time, it found us within a block of our location. While that can be concerning for me, it’s downright dangerous for kids.

“They just take a quick photo and text it right out. All that geotagging information is going to be embedded on that photo,” said Special Agent James Zajac of the FBI. “It brings you right to that person’s doorstep.”

Children may think they’re being safe, but Zajac says parents should check.

The key: Look at the “location services” feature for each app. Make sure they’re turned off for social media. Then geotags won’t be made public.

But location services can be left on for other apps, like one that allows parents to track their kids.

“It can be helpful if a child goes missing or is abducted,” Zajak said. “That information can be used to help track possibly where that child is located.”

Friedland said, “What I really want is I want people to be educated and make an educated decision about how they use social media.”

To visit the Ready or Not website, click here.

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