The dangerous selfie

By Rob Treynor

April 22, 2014

While posting a selfie to a social media network may seem like a fun, innocuous thing to do, hidden dangers lurk in those photos.

Here are five easy tips to help one avoid problems which selfies can create:

1. Remove Geotagging

Many people may not be aware that photos taken with a cellphone often include geographical coordinates of where the photo was taken. This data is embedded into the data of the photograph. The location data in a photo is called a “geotag.”

With the right software, this location data can be viewed. This can tell criminals exactly where the photographer was standing when the photo was taken.

If the photo includes something of value (say, a new television), criminals now can determine what room in the photographer’s house that item is.

A selfie can also alert a criminal as to how far someone is from their home, which could make the photographer’s home more susceptible to burglary.

In the camera app’s settings, most phones include an option to turn off “location sharing.” Without geotags, it will be harder for criminals to utilize photos for nefarious purposes.

2. Postpone posting

Even if a photographer removes the geotags, a selfie taken at a beach or in front of Cinderella’s castle can provide enough data to criminals that the photographer is on vacation and that their home may be unattended.

Tagging vacationing friends in photos is also not advised, since that would alert criminals to their whereabouts as well.

Sharing vacation photos online should be postponed until everyone has returned home.

3. Don’t post selfies in which alcohol is evident

A social media monitoring service called Reppler discovered that 69 percent of 300 hiring providers surveyed have rejected candidates based on data found on social network profiles.

Even though most alcohol consumption is legal, evidence of it in selfies may limit future job opportunities.

4. Don’t post selfies that can be used against you in court

Collecting data from social networks has become common procedure in most lawsuits and criminal investigations.

While most people are smart enough not to pose with a gun prior to robbing a bank, some may forget that their claimed “disability” does not allow them to do the activities presented in a selfie.

A recent report from the radio show Marketplace noted that the Internal Revenue Service has begun using data collected from social networks to build a case against suspected tax-dodgers.

5. Never bare all

It may be tempting to send a loved one a revealing selfie. But what happens if love goes sour some time in the future? Or if the photo is saved to a phone that gets misplaced or lost?

The safest way to prevent your naked body from being posted willy-nilly to the internet is to not allow yourself to be photographed naked, ever.

Revenge porn — sexually explicit media that is publicly shared online without the consent of the pictured individual — is a criminal activity on the rise world-wide. In 80 percent of the cases, the explicit photo shared online was a selfie.

If the rise of “revenge porn” cases in the U.S. isn’t reason enough to not bare all, remember Anthony Weiner, the U.S. representative who had to step down after accidentally publicly tweeting a sexually suggestive photograph of himself.

Rob Treynor may be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 19, or via Twitter @RobTreynor.