IT Specialist Explains Data in Photos Can Reveal People's Location

3 years 8 months 1 week ago Friday, October 13 2017 Oct 13, 2017 October 13, 2017 2:35 PM October 13, 2017 in News

MCALLEN – A simple picture someone posts online can give away more information than they originally thought they were giving away.

Things such as metadata and exchangeable image file format data, or EXIF, can be giving strangers information about a person that they may not want them to have.

Robert Ramon found this out when he searched his daughters name one day on Google. He said a picture from her private social media account popped up on the search. 

"It scares me because obviously, your kids are your entire life. I mean my daughter is very involved in social media," said Ramon.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS caught up with Drew Lentz, an IT specialist, to explain how this could happen. He said metadata and EXIF data are to blame.

"The thing about metadata is that it's not just one thing, it's like a cylinder in a lock,” said Lentz. “If I get a little information about where you work and I combine that with information that I know about where you went to school and I combine that with information that you post on Facebook or on Twitter or on Instagram I can combine all that data."

Lentz said this metadata acts like a key to that lock.

Metadata is the process of finding out what people's interests are or where they are currently located through clues in a picture they post online. Lentz believes this can lead to big problems.

"Any type of metadata can be used to achieve some type of security breach or some type of compromise," he said.

He also explained EXIF data was originally made for photographers to prove the photographs they were posting actually belonged to them. However, people soon found out this data could be used to do harm.

"EXIF data contains not just the longitude and latitude, but it does contain all of the information about the device that took the photo and even if you disable that longitude and latitude, that EXIF data still exist. In some cases, what type of phone it was when you took it, where you took it and that's a lot of data that you're putting out there,” said Lentz.

Lentz said social media users need to be diligent about what they post and make sure it cannot compromise them personally or professionally.

"You have to have a security-first mindset when you're using any type of technology. Regardless if it's set to private, or public or whatever. When you post it online, it can come back to haunt you." 

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