It’s 11 o’clock, do you know where your children are? ‘Cause Facebook totally does.

By » Sun, March 4 2012
NZ 4404 450x337 Its 11 oclock, do you know where your children are?  Cause Facebook totally does.

No GPS data available. (img by Michael Hodson)

Because if you’re geotagging your photos, pretty much anyone can find out.

Geotagging, naturally, is the inclusion of GPS coordinates with media like photos. Digital cameras and cell phone cams are pretty commonly equipped with GPS hardware and will automagically tag pictures with the exact coordinates of where they were taken.

This is fucking boss if you’re taking photos from the top of Mount Arecibo or the Ross Shelf or someplace else where your badassery is so great it can be literally seen from space, but it doesn’t have much, if any value to photos of your friends passed out drunk on the sofa covered in Sharpie dicks. The fact that geotagging may be enabled by default may not, on the surface, seem like any big thing.

But the truth is that geotagging data combined with social networking means that any photos you make public may have the GPS coordinates of where that photo was taken. (This is also true for photos of you that other people take and make public.)

And that data, naturally, can be used against you. Or your kids, as the Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics points out.

Joanne Kuzma of the University of Worcester, England, has analyzed photos that clearly show children’s faces on the photo sharing site Flickr. She found that a significant proportion of those analyzed were geotagged and a large number of those were associated with 50 of the more expensive residential zip codes in the USA.

The location information could possibly be used to locate a child’s home or other location based on information publicly available on Flickr,” explains Kuzma. “Publishing geolocation data raises concerns about privacy and security of children when such personalized information is available to internet users who may have dubious reasons for accessing this data.”

Of course it’s par for the course that we must always first think of the children. Seriously, the possibilities for this type of breach of privacy can put anyone over a barrel, even the guy passed out covered in dicks.

“Never take candy from strangers.” We all know this, it’s what you tell kids because… because strangers are constantly preying on them. Or not so much, really:

Amazingly, despite the widespread fear of Halloween poisonings, no evidence of a genuine Halloween poisoning can be located. A professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware, Dr. Joel Best, has tried to debunk this myth repeatedly. After scanning major newspapers between 1958 and 1993 for stories about Halloween candy tampering, Dr. Best found nearly 100 stories that he followed up with phone calls to police and hospitals. Of those stories, Dr. Best found absolutely none that could be positively attributed to random Halloween violence. The majority were the result of pranks. The reported incidents usually involved the discovery of contaminated treats, but with no actual injury to the children. When these cases were followed up, even the contamination usually turned out to be a hoax – often one initiated by the children themselves.

In 1975, Newsweek magazine claimed that several children had died from Halloween candy-tampering in recent years. Surprisingly, this claim was not based on any actual events. In the only two documented cases of child deaths associated with Halloween candy, strangers were not to blame. Members of the child’s immediate family were intentionally or unintentionally responsible for the poisonings, and those responsible placed blame on random Halloween poisonings. In a case from Detroit, Michigan in 1970, 5-year-old Kevin Toston died four days into a coma that was later found to be caused by an overdose of heroin. Subsequently, heroin was found in his Halloween candy. A thorough investigation revealed that the heroin had not come from a stranger – it had come from his uncle’s obviously poorly hidden stash of heroin. When his family realized that they might be found guilty of neglect, they put some of the heroin in his candy in the hopes of covering up their part in his death. In 1974, 8-year-old Timothy Mark O’Bryan died as a result of consuming Pixie Stix® poisoned with cyanide after Halloween, a crime for which his father was subsequently convicted and executed. His father made use of the myth of Halloween poisonings to cover up his own actions. While these deaths are undeniably tragic, the real danger to the children involved came from their own homes, not faceless strangers.

Not to say that it has never happened. The entire notion and urban legend of the candy kidnapper has its roots in history. In 1874, Charley Ross, age four, was lured away with the promise of candy and fireworks by two men in a horse-drawn carriage. The kidnappers asked for ransom but it was too high, so his father went to the police, the event made national news, “Bring Back Our Darling” got wrote, but the boy was never seen nor heard from again.

There isn’t a moral or lesson here. Kids can be victimized. So can anyone else. Photo of you partying with that giant-ass big-screen HDTV in your living room? Make you you don’t facepage it with a geotag.

So, you know, turn that shit off, and tell your friends to do the same.

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