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Social Media Roundup - Dangers of location-based social networking and geotagging


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In November 2010, the Online and Social Media Division produced a Social Media Roundup highlighting the risks of geotagging ( As the popularity of location-based social networking continues to grow, it's clear that it is time to revisit the risks associated with revealing too much location information on social media platforms.

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Social Media Roundup - Dangers of location-based social networking and geotagging

  1. 1. Social Media RoundupDangers of location-based social networking and geotagging
  2. 2. Social Media Roundup AgendaIn November 2010, the Online and Social Media Division produced aSocial Media Roundup highlighting the risks of geotagging( As the popularity of location-based socialnetworking continues to grow, it became clear that it was time to revisitthe risks associated with revealing too much location information onsocial media platforms. Introduction Location-based social networking Do people need to know where you are? Tagging locations on Facebook Geotagging Ways to avoid the risks of geotagging Resources
  3. 3. Social Media RoundupIntroduction According to a study released by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and McAfee in 2012, “one in five (19%) Americans have come in contact with someone online who made them feel uncomfortable through stalking, persistent emails, and other aggressive outreach attempts.” The statistic is startling, but not all that surprising when one takes into consideration the amount of data and personal information people post about themselves online. In the 2012 article referencing the study ( McAfee advises that location-based social networking sites often reveal too much, “Checking-in to restaurants and other locations can be fun, but it can also be dangerous if someone is stalking you.”
  4. 4. Social Media RoundupLocation-based social networking Location-social based social networking consists of social media services like Foursquare, Loopt and Gowalla that use GPS features to locate you and then broadcast your location and other information from your mobile device. These services allow users to earn badges, discounts or points to reward users for checking in frequently. Users can also leave comments and tips at places they check in to. On the surface, use of these services may seem innocuous, but if used too often or too publically, these sites can reveal vital information about a user’s geographical location. If used often enough, these services can also assist adversaries in mapping out patterns of behavior.
  5. 5. Social Media RoundupDo people need to know where you are?  Is a badge on Foursquare worth your life? It seems like an extreme question to ask, but if you’re checking in on location-based social networking sites or tagging photos with locations during troops movements, or while in a combat zone, you could potentially be targeted.  If you’re using location-based social networking services, do not use them while on mission, do not use them when traveling to and from deployments or while participating in training exercises. Make sure you are extremely careful about who you authorize to follow your location-based social networking profiles.  Before you check in, also consider the question, “do people really need to know exactly where I’m at?” and “How could this information be used against me, or my unit if it fell into enemy hands?” This also applies to family members.
  6. 6. Social Media RoundupTagging locations on Facebook Indicating location is not limited to location-based social media services like Foursquare. Facebook also allows users to tag photos and posts with a specific geographical location. In Facebook’s new Timeline feature, once a photo or a post is tagged with a geographical location, people can click on that location and pull up a map. In the example below, anyone interested in this user can find out the places he/she checks into most often and when they check in to those places. Combine this with the user’s photo and it’s not particularly difficult to track this person down or find out their habits/routines.
  7. 7. Social Media RoundupTagging locations on Facebook  Given the implications of the last slide, what happens when organizational Pages tag locations in their photos and posts? Organizations should NOT, under any circumstances, tag photos and posts with specific geographical locations.  It is however acceptable to include public releasable information about location in photo cutlines.
  8. 8. Social Media RoundupGeotagging Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification to photographs, video, websites and SMS messages. It is the equivalent of adding a 10- digit grid coordinate to everything you post on the internet. Geotags are automatically embedded in pictures taken with smartphones. Many people are unaware of the fact that the photos they take with their smartphones and load to the Internet have been geotagged.
  9. 9. Social Media RoundupWays to avoid the risks of geotagging Be aware of the fact that your images can be geotagged – Many people are unaware of geotagging possibilities in the devices they own, while for others, they know about the capabilities but forget to disable them. Understand the risks – Geotagging information can potentially give someone intent on causing you harm the opportunity to know your exact whereabouts. If you don’t want the enemy to know where you are or where you have been, don’t tag your photos with locations. Know when not to use geotagging features – If you’re deployed, if you’re in transit to support a military mission, if you’re on a secret military installation, don’t use geotagging features. OPSEC should be your primary concern.
  10. 10. Social Media Roundup Ways to avoid the risks of geotagging Know how to disable your cell phones geotagging features – Every smartphone has the geotagging feature automatically set to operate, so if you want to avoid keep your images from being geotagged, disable the feature. Be cognizant of where you post your pictures and what geotagged information you leave behind – Don’t just tag photos and move on. Think before you tag a photo with a location. If you haven’t disabled the geotagging feature and you’ve already posted images with tagged locations, go back through them and determine whether or not the information you have shared places you or anyone else in harm’s way. Check permissions – Make sure you check the geotagging permissions for all the applications you use on your phone.
  11. 11. Social Media RoundupResources External online resources  Please Rob Me: OPSEC resources  Interagency OPSEC Support Staff:  Anti-Phishing Phil:  OnGuard Online: Social media training: Social Media Roundups  9 Critical Steps to Protecting Yourself on Facebook:  Geotags and Location-based Social Networking: Army Slideshare site:
  12. 12. Social Media Roundup Contact informationHave questions? Please feel free toreach out to us at the Online andSocial Media review and download past editions of theSocial Media Roundup, visit our Slideshare siteat: Social Media Roundups are authorized to bedistributed to a broader audience.2/22/2012OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF PUBLIC AFFAIRSPENTAGON