Myrtle Beach Police warn about hidden dangers of ‘Geotagging’ on apps

Published: Dec. 13, 2018 at 7:30 AM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - We live in a digital age where social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram are just part of our daily routines. But are we sharing too much information online that could potentially fall into the wrong hands? Myrtle Beach police want you to be careful about always telling people where you are.

These apps on your smartphone all use a technology called “geotagging” to enhance its services. It can let other people see where you are. Your posts, your photos and videos all share a lot more about you. Sometimes, geotagging automatically records your location data when you don’t even know it. Depending on your online privacy settings, this information can help strangers, giving criminals the opportunity to learn your patterns and track you.

It’s called "Cybercasing.”

The Myrtle Beach Police Department says they've received messages recently concerning the Geotagging feature on apps like Snapchat. They say you want to careful about who you're adding as friends on social media.

“It depends on the application but in general, they have to be your friend, and that’s why it’s so important that if you don’t know who people are, don’t accept friend requests from them. Always fact check. The internet is an incredible way that we can share information and maintain friendships, but if you don’t know who people are, don’t accept the friend requests,” said Corporal Thomas Vest with the Myrtle Beach Police Department.

On popular apps like Snapchat, you can pull up the Snap Map feature and it shows the exact locations of where you and your friends are. If you don't pay close attention on your geotagging settings, you could be the next victim. Predators can use this tool to easily track you down.

To prevent this from happening, here’s what you want to do:

Disable the geotagging feature. To do that, first know which applications use the service. If you have an iPhone, you can go to your settings, then click “privacy” and go to “location services.” From there, you can turn off Snapchat, Twitter and other social media apps that use GPS tracking.

“The website - it’s a federal program that generally offers good advice on social media - and that goes for every age group, from children all the way through adults because everybody uses it which is really the appeal. So it’s important that everybody protect themselves, not just the kids,” said Vest.

Vest said the department has received messages from the public about geotagging apps and they plan to share more information on Facebook about some better ways to keep yourself safe on social media.

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