Oh Please! “Terrifying”? The Latest “Alarming!” News?

Readers: This “service” piece on NBC Over-Reaction News — sorry, NBC Action tfnsyifreb
News —  tells us that because there is a GPS locator embedded in the pix we take on our cell phones, “the bad guys” can NOW SEE where our children live, where they “recreate” (such a police verb — it means play), and where they “go to school.” It can even “locate their bedrooms!”

Which means that if you are a predator who could not possibly OTHERWISE ever figure out where there is a park, or a school, or a house with a trike in the front yard, at LAST you can find yourself a child, using sophisticated technology.

SUDDENLY our children are unsafe — and it is all technology’s fault. And how GRATEFUL we must be to the TV reporters who dwell and dwell and dwell on the fact that now we parents must be even MORE vigilant, because so many predators are busy using GPS embeds to “cherry pick” (TV’s word) and track down the ONLY kid worth taking: YOURS. Because her smile is so irresistibly sweet!

Shake, shake, shake. Those are your marching orders for today: SHAKE IN YOUR SHOES. They are watching your every move! If you love your children, be MORE CAREFUL! (And if you DON’T love your children, go ahead and take their pictures, you dreadful parent. You will suffer the consequences!!!!!) — L.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2vARzvWxwY]

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67 Responses to Oh Please! “Terrifying”? The Latest “Alarming!” News?

  1. Ali February 24, 2011 at 12:59 am #

    Interesting how they downplay the obvious….keep your private photos private so no one can see them other than friends. Isn’t that what we should be doing anyway?? Erg!

  2. Robin from Israel February 24, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    I have to respectfully disagree with Ali, I’ve never kept my photos private and I do publish photos of my kids on my blog. I figure no one can discover anything there that they can’t see just as easily at the local supermarket or swimming pool. Just think – you call to your kid on the playground, just by bellowing out there name your friendly neighborhood pervert (because honestly, aren’t chances higher that a pervert would find a child actually in front of them than from a random photo on the internet?) knows what they look like, who they belong to, what their name is, and more. What would be the alternative, to refer to our kids by their supersecret blog names even in real life? I just don’t want to live that way, and I don’t want my kids to grow up in fear. A healthy sense of caution and common sense, fine, admirable even, but constant fear? No thanks.

    My photography is available for purchase – visit Around the Island Photography and bring home something beautiful today!

  3. sue February 24, 2011 at 1:14 am #

    From everything that I’ve read about pedophiles and kidnappers, parents have more to fear from Uncle Wilbur or the nice Little League coach than from a stranger on the Internet. More kids are abused and kidnapped by people they know than by strangers.

    The first commenter had it right about adjusting our privacy settings on social networking sites so that only friends can see the photos. That eliminates the problem of strangers viewing photos.

  4. Mike February 24, 2011 at 1:16 am #

    For the paranoid, there are exif strippers that remove all such hidden info from digital photos. Find them on google.

    The “news” segment is all about fear, and money. Fear generates ratings, which increases ad revenue. In other words: Fearmonger story of mundane object = more money for the station.

  5. Dyna February 24, 2011 at 1:25 am #

    When we moved we sent out change-of-address postcards with a photo of our daughter on the front. We got a call from one concerned Aunt that “they” (a handful of postal employees?) would know where she lives and that “you can’t be too careful these days”. Ridiculous.

    We also have a blog with our children’s photos on it for family. We keep identifying details out of it and it’s not indexed by the search engines, but the Internet is still the Internet and I’m not worried this puts my children in any additional danger.

  6. Jen February 24, 2011 at 1:30 am #

    You know, those GPS locators can be turned off.

  7. Jen Connelly February 24, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    Because don’t you know they sit around trolling parenting sites looking at all the kids’ pictures to find just the right kid for them and then they investigate until they find that kid somewhere in the world and spend every ounce of energy and money to get to THAT kid. Because pedophiles have nothing better to do than track kids down.

    I’m pretty sure most of them have jobs and lives outside of obsessing over 7 year olds in bikinis on facebook. I have no fear of posting pics online. I don’t post them from my phone but my husband does and he gets mad when his phone mislabels his location, lol. It never says the right town (where we live). I have all sorts of pics online (on facebook, myspace, a parenting site and my personal blog). Most are friends only but my blog is public. I really don’t see someone putting that much effort into finding me and my kids and if they did than they would find a way even without the pictures.

  8. pebblekeeper February 24, 2011 at 1:42 am #

    Do they have a documnted case of a criminal obsessing over a Mommy Blog or Cell Phone transmissions and nabbing that interesting mom’s kid? Maybe I should be more transparent f the “bad days”
    I still think that anyone, in the 8 stores we went through yesterday, had more opportunity to take one of my cuties home, or follow us home and watch us turn on the lights to see what rooms we use – than anyone who would use technology. And yet.

  9. Alexicographer February 24, 2011 at 1:49 am #

    You know, aside from the fear-mongering tone of the news story, I have to respectfully disagree with not just Lenore but also Ali. Lenore because — really? We shouldn’t want to know that if we take pictures with a smartphone they include a location stamp and if we post them online that stamp will be visible? You make your decisions and I’ll make mine (though see below in this same comment), but I don’t assume that things I use the internet to share (even with a select audience) are private, and I don’t necessarily want to be sharing my GPS coordinates with the world.

    … nor do I assume that I’m the only one who’s taking and sharing pictures of my kids (etc.) (thus I don’t actually believe that this is “my choice.”). Actually quite the contrary; I know I’m not, as when my child spends time with people who are my FB friends, I later see records of the occasion — i.e. photos and videos — through FB (and who know how many of those folks have private blogs that I don’t follow, or know about, on which they post photos). Now, maybe you think you can tell everyone who spends time with your kids (etc.) not to post photos of that online, but I don’t, and I also don’t particularly want to tell them to exclude my child from the record of the event.

    While I’m not deeply terrified of the thought that there are numerous photos online with our GPS coordinates on them, it doesn’t thrill me, either. Isn’t this one of those cost-benefit things? Really, what’s the benefit to me of having everyone and anyone be able to map where those pictures were taken?

    And forget the safety of my kids; what if one picture is a snapshot of my home and another group shows us at a beach and says, “We’re having a great time, we’ll be here ’til Sunday [please feel free to stop by and rob our home — it’s in another state, we’ll never know]!”

    In short, I’m glad to know about this technology, though mildly aggravated that I can only disactivate it, for photos I myself take (and exercise my own discretion about what I post where); I can’t compel everyone I know not to take geocoded pictures that relate to me and my family, nor can I prevent them from posting those, and whatever information they want about me (“Had a great time at Alexicographer’s picnic last night — glad we saw her before she left for Maine!”).

  10. mollie February 24, 2011 at 2:11 am #

    This reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend the other day; we were talking about online dating. She was complaining, “You can tell the men have totally different ideas of safety than women do by the photos they post,” she said. “Men put pictures of themselves with their kids on their profiles! That’s not safe!”

    Okay, back up here, I said to her. What exactly is “not safe” about putting a photo of you and your baby, or you and your kid on a dating website? She said, “Predators can see those images, and then they know the kid is vulnerable, because there are single parents raising them.”

    Alright, I said, let’s go through this step by step. So first of all, if I’m a predator and I want to see these kids in the men’s care, I have to create a fake profile as a woman, perhaps a single mom. Then I engage the dad in exchanges with me, and we decide to get together at the park with our kids for an afternoon play. I show up at the park at the appointed time and see this poor shmo sitting alone on the bench while his delicious kiddies are swinging and sliding. I engage him in conversation, we commiserate about fickle women and how his date didn’t show. We get to be buddies, we arrange to have beers sometime, after a while I become his friend, and like an uncle to his kids. Then I suggest that I sit with the kids while he goes out on his dates, and voila!

    I said to my friend, “How would that be easier than just going to a park and chatting up what looks to be a single dad? They’re everywhere, these guys with their kids. Become friends with a single dad and the pedophilia world is your oyster, right?

    And ultimately, this “predator” is working through the parent, and has to become friends with him before having access to the kids. It would not be possible as a “predator” to have direct access to children on a dating website… I reminded her that I’ve never heard of a case where a pedophile found a photo of a non-computer-using child online, on a dating website or anywhere else, and managed to target that child for abuse. What I have heard of is of predators who lure computer-USING children into meetings “IRL” after creating a connection online… used to be chat rooms, now maybe facebook.

    Anyway, even with all of this dissection of the issue, my friend still held fast to her derision of any father who would post a photo of himself with his children in the context of a dating site, and that women “just don’t do that, because it’s not safe.” I then suggested the principles of simple marketing to her, that in our culture, stereotypes are that men are more attractive to women when they show that they are nurturers and have a soft, family side, and that women are more attractive to men when they show that they are spontaneous, fun, and youthful. Hence, men post photos of themselves with their children, and women do not. Safety from predators has NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.

    I always saw news segments like these as “how to” instructions for people who never knew they could do this sort of thing… like when they showed on TV how you could make a dangerous bomb using Tylenolâ„¢ and DrainOâ„¢ or something like that. Great, I’d say, now all the 12-year-olds know this. Thanks a heap.

    I’m so glad I don’t have a TV. If I were seeing things like this, I’d get a stomach ache every day from fretting over the fear-mongering that goes on, really wanting people to enjoy their lives while employing common sense. What seems to be pushed in the media is more like “glom-on” sense, just glom on to any hint of danger and act like it’s imminent. Sigh.

    If you feel worried about your kids and all the “predators out there,” I suggest the work of Byron Katie, to help you really examine your thoughts and see how they might be ruining your quality of life! It really is all in your head, people.

  11. View Point February 24, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    And for how many terrifying years have we been able to pin point a person’s home by looking up a name in the public phone book?

  12. David February 24, 2011 at 2:19 am #

    There’s a plus side to this story: a lot of people who didn’t know that information is encoded in their photos now know, and instead of getting freaked out about it, they can wonder why the information is encoded there to begin with. And then maybe they’ll find some of the fun photo applications they can use that take advantage of that geocoded information.

    Here’s an example of a vacation slideshow from one application (iPhoto) that takes advantage of GPS data in your photos to show where the pictures were taken: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9syWhIHUveA

    You can also use iPhoto (and other photo organizing programs) to search your pictures by location. Want to find all the pictures taken at Grandma’s house? You can do that without having to manually tag every picture with “Grandma’s House”.

    If you like to make photo books out of your vacation photos, you can also use the GPS information when you use book template software to automatically create maps and show where you went on your vacation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqdRa0XT8qE#t=0m50s

    (Just thought I’d show the upside for those who don’t know)

  13. gpo February 24, 2011 at 2:19 am #

    I think I will play the odds that out of the millions and millions of pics online that one pedo will take an interest in my children because of the pic.

    If you go by the odds then you would never let your child ride in a car.

    I don’t think Lenore is saying that the info is bad it is more how they report it to you.

    I applaud the lady who would not speak on camera. I would never speak on camera to anyone. The way I look at it is they are making money off me and where is my cut. And don’t use the news argument. There is very little news on these days really. All of it is entertainment.

  14. tommynomad February 24, 2011 at 2:21 am #

    I agree that there is no point to GPS coordinates in the exif file of digital pictures. But Alexicographer is right: they’re more likely to be of use to thieves than pedophiles.

    If big brother is wathing me through my phone pics, he’d better be prepared to see me surf the ‘net in my pjs.

  15. Kimberly Herbert February 24, 2011 at 2:26 am #

    I got in “trouble” with my family because I had my privacy settings on a photo site set to high. So the not so tech savy people couldn’t figure out how see my pic.

    Most of my sister’s friends are on facebook. I take a ton of photographs at events, upload the pics and let the parents know they are up so they can grab copies. In the last 10 years I’ve had 1 parent let me know that I needed to set the pics of some of her kids to private.

    The kids in question were foster kids, and the abusive cell donors had tried to grab them from another foster home.

    700 kids in my school this year we had zero parents opt out of web activities that include posting pics and vids of kids doing various activities.

  16. EricS February 24, 2011 at 2:26 am #

    Well for one thing, no one should be posting anything online they DON’T want the world to see or know about. Pretty ignorant to think that posting online is private. And if you do post “your life” online, no one should be surprised if suddenly they see their pics doctored and re-posted.

    But in regards to predators hunting down your children using this technology, if someone really wanted your kid, they don’t need this. They would have already picked out your child and followed them around for a while, and will just wait for the right moment to nab them. Basically, if someone wanted your kid, short of living in fear 24/7 and locking up your child in cage, there’s nothing you can do about it. But one does have to remember, these incidences are extremely rare. And most abductions or attempted abductions are done by someone you already know. So they already know about you and your kids. They may already be in your friend’s list.

    Anyone that would use this technology to track someone else is REALLY out to get them, and tech savvy. But 98% of the time, no one can be bothered. Enjoy the pics. By the way, you can choose not to share location info from your phone.

  17. Emily February 24, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    It’s worth considering the ramifications of this when using Craigslist. For example, you are taking pictures of expensive stereo equipment or something else that’s highly desirable to thieves. I don’t know how big a deal it is, but I might consider it if I were posting a picture of something like that out there in public.

  18. EricS February 24, 2011 at 2:33 am #

    @ mollie: good for you. Hopefully your friend grows some gonads and a brain. She’ll live longer without the stress.

    @ viewpoint: ya know! lol

    Some people just lack common sense. They think the worse…and that’s it. There is nothing else. They are so paranoid that everything is suddenly dangerous. Unless it doesn’t benefit them or is an inconvenience. Selective paranoia. lol

  19. EricS February 24, 2011 at 2:36 am #

    @ Emily: it’s NOT a big deal. People only make it a big deal. And we all know what happens when more people become gullible and make a big deal of one thing…it becomes news, hitting even more paranoid people. Next thing you know, no one is posting anything on Craigslist. Just like all the other dumb fears of people that has escalated, and has become a mythical norm, that others believe in.

  20. dmd February 24, 2011 at 2:40 am #

    Predators sure must be thankful for this technology that lets them find children. Otherwise, they would never have any clue where we have hid them.

  21. Alexicographer February 24, 2011 at 2:52 am #

    @EricS, I respectfully disagree with you, too. I think Emily raises a good point — not that we shouldn’t post pictures online, but that we should be aware how much information about us they reveal and make our choices accordingly. Is it a better idea for me to post a photo of my $2,000 bicycle that’s for sale on Craigslist with geocoding, or without?

    And those who say “X is no more dangerous than Y” (“Oh, it’s no more dangerous to post a geocoded than it is to ride your bicycle from your house, (where people can also see you)”), are often missing the point. That sort of comparison is only meaningful if you’re choosing between two activities; if they’re not mutually exclusive, then the risks are additive and just because you accept the risk for one doesn’t (necessarily) mean you should accept the risk for the other. Each should be evaluated separately in terms of the risks and benefits it confers.

    (When the dentist told me yesterday that the x-ray she wanted to take was no more dangerous than some number of hours of exposure to the sun, she wasn’t sharing useful information, unless she was advocating that I stay inside for that many hours to counterbalance the effect of the x-ray. My decision to accept risks associated with sun exposure is motivated by very different considerations from my decision to accept risk associated with dental x-rays.)

  22. Matt L. February 24, 2011 at 2:56 am #

    Uggg, I hate it when a piece that could just say “FYI you may be giving out more info than you realize” actually says “You are unwittingly inviting a guaranteed murder.” If people want to publish locations of their photos, great. If others don’t think it is necessary so don’t (like me) also great. Why go on with the nonsense about the possible outcomes, there are too many to name, if any! The histrionics give me whiplash.

  23. Matt L. February 24, 2011 at 3:14 am #

    @EricS; @Alexicographer – This isn’t about not posting anything it is about being educated and comfortable about what you post. Think of privacy rather than safety. What is really fun are when people post photos then say it is an undisclosed location. Think again!

  24. Ali February 24, 2011 at 3:25 am #

    I’m sorry you all seemed to have missed my point….there is an obvious, easy solution which the media chose to downplay completely in “reporting” this story. Rather, they chose to hyperventilate and talk about how easy it is to pull up a map to your house via a photo on the internet. It’s about the fearmongering nature of the story, rather than the “FYI” it should have been.

    And Emily had a great point about Craigslist: The story could have been just as easily based on things people post for sale on CL and having people “stalk” your items all the way to your house. But no, lets focus on the children because they’re always inherently in danger from people searching them out of the millions of photos available online.

    For people who don’t like having everything available online, there’s a super easy fix. No need to hyperventilate about the what-ifs.

  25. EricS February 24, 2011 at 3:28 am #

    @ Alex and Matt: That’s what I said. I’m a firm believer of post whatever you want on online. Just be smart about it. ie. “no one should be posting anything online they DON’T want the world to see or know about. Pretty ignorant to think that posting online is private. And if you do post “your life” online, no one should be surprised if suddenly they see their pics doctored and re-posted.”

    Alex, in regards to Emily’s post about Craigslist, she wasn’t talking about information you put out. She was referring to putting a pic up and some getting the geo tag from that pic, find the location of said item and stealing it. I said…THAT isn’t a big deal, because no one really does that. Just like NO ONE “hunts” children by finding random pics online and getting the geo tag and hunting down the child.

    Again, posting pics online ISN’T an issue, BUT people do MAKE it an issue. Enough people make one thing an issue, then that issue becomes blown out of proportion, and everyone starts believing it. THAT’s when it becomes an issue. NOT the posting pics, but the fears of posting pics.

    You guys would do well to actually read what is posted, instead of skimming through it. You miss the good parts. lol

  26. Donna February 24, 2011 at 3:44 am #

    I deal with criminals of all kinds 50 hours a week and there hasn’t been a single case of someone seeing something on Craigslist, hunting them down by their exif data and robbing their house. I’m sure it may happen one day but why? Unless you have some one-of-a-kind item, a thief can get the exact same item from their neighbor’s house with no extra effort whatsoever. Criminals are simply not known for being overly ambitious and seeking to make crimes more difficult.

  27. Brian February 24, 2011 at 3:44 am #

    I often wonder about people that sit around and think these kinds of danger scenarios up. Is some guy thinking of dozens of ways to kidnap your kids for a story just as sick as someone that sits and plots ways to do it in real life?

    Are the people that sit around and think about how terrorists could harm us any better for us than the people they think they are protecting us from?

    Any kind of security discussions always seems to lead to the whatif’s.. I hate the Whatif’s.. People need to learn to let go the 1% of issues, to focus on the 99% issues.

  28. BMS February 24, 2011 at 3:48 am #

    I have next to no photos of me or my family online. Why? Well for one, I am too freaking lazy. Two, I have no facebook page/blog/homepage. We used to somehow be able to live without seeing pictures of everyone, all the time. I get photos from my relatives with kids at Christmas. Occasionally a friend will email a picture of them or their kid. But seriously, I don’t care what they look like. Not sure why they would care what I look like. I’d rather get an email (or God forbid, an actual paper letter)(I know, I’m a dreamer) that tells me what is going on in their lives. To me, the 10000 pictures of everyone, online all the time, is just another symptom of the “I (and my family by extension) are the most important thing in the universe” mentality that a lot of people seem to have fallen into these days. Really, you are not so important that pedophiles dream of tracking you and your spawn down.

    Note that I am not saying that noone should post and share pictures. But maybe we don’t need every moment of our lives documented either.

  29. Cheryl W February 24, 2011 at 3:54 am #

    Ok, lets say I was kidnapped, stuck in a car trunk and taken off to some place. I manage to hide my cell phone, and because I don’t want them to hear I have cell phone, I instead take a photo of the room they put me in. I can then (if I can figure it all out because I don’t do this stuff) send a photo to my page that then has a stamp of about where I am. Cool. And I can do that, even though I don’t have text messaging enabled. What a huge help for people to find me. (At least, if I understand how all this works!)

    Which could have been the story…but that is not how they approached it.

  30. Larry Harrison February 24, 2011 at 3:59 am #

    Oh this is hilarious. A week ago, a good friend of mine whom I happened to also have as a Facebook “friend,” posted a link to this exact same story, with that very same “scarrrrry!” alarmist point of view. I respectfully suggested that the story was really playing up to fears more than actually helping people be aware, and that it’s easy enough to turn off “geo-tagging” anyway.

    I lost them as a Facebook friend (hopefully not as a real one) over that, even though I was–I thought–respectful in how I conveyed my thoughts over it. I was not insulting or so forth at all in conveying my thoughts, but they de-friended me anyway. Oh well.

    It just goes to show you how really convinced so many people are that the bogeyman is just waiting around the corner to snatch up your kids, and you absolutely cannot convince them otherwise, not even tactfully & respectfully.

    Well, I’m going to state my feelings on the matter here, and do so with far less restraint than I did in the Facebook posting.

    People who really believe that posting a photo of your child online is akin to posting a “please rape & molest my child, I invite you to, please!” sign over your house–and advertising where & how they can find you, frankly–people who REALLY believe that need mental treatment. They’re hysterical schizophrenic-types ruled by irrational fears. They are people–frankly–whom I have no interest in having anything to do with in anyway whatsoever if I can help it.

    I’m sorry if I’m being tacky, I do respect differing opinions by & large–but I have found that the persons who really believe this spoon-fed story as it’s presented are really that impossible to deal with, and I’ve just given up trying.

    I don’t know where these irrational fears come from, but they are most certainly completely baseless, over-the-top, and yes irrational. People like this anymore are polluting our society, our environment, and frankly dumbing-down our entire atmosphere around us with a chilly attitude towards life that is bordering on psychotic.

    Unless you are working for the FBI & lead a double-life as an uncover agent & need to keep things confidential for obvious reasons along those lines, your worries are without merit and ridiculous in every way imaginable and real. For a person to think they & their children are “all that” and in need of the level of security & privacy afforded to the likes of such persons is the absolute height of arrogance and illusions of grand de jour (if I spelled that correctly).

    I practice what I preach–photos I take of my children, wife, myself–even if I’m doing silly things–they’re all online and they’re most certainly not on Facebook where someone has to be my “friend” to see them. They’re hosted at photo-hosting sites like Flickr and Photobucket where they’ve resided long before Facebook gave people the idea that one needs to post somewhere where only “friends” can see them, because surely someone else is the bogeyman hiding in the bushes.

    I don’t suffer from such irrational fears, thank God, and have no qualms about posting. In fact, as a hobbyist photographer who sometimes takes portraits for people in a somewhat amateur-professional capacity and yet needs as many such shots to showcase as a portfolio, I make it clear to any would-be subjects–you absolutely MUST be okay with my posting such shots to my site for such purposes, or I will not do the shoot at all. My way, or no way at all.

    I have yet to have a complaint about it, and the minute I do, that particular person will be looking for another photographer, the loss of income be damned.

    I don’t enable that sort of stupidity and irrational fear of the non-existent, I’m sorry.


  31. Elissa February 24, 2011 at 4:24 am #

    How is this any different than back in the day when you took you film to the neighborhood film developer? You may or may not have put your name & address on the envelope that the pictures were returned in that was sitting on a counter for people to come pick their prints up in? If someone was interested in stalking you – they could do just as easily then, and I think we all survived the horrors of that!

    Here’s an internet tip – don’t put anything out on the web you don’t want the world to see. I don’t care how secure your facebook or email account is, the potential for hacking, or auntie Em to share the cute bath pic of Timmy with her best friend, who then shares it with her best friend who then sends it to someone who puts it on one of those obnoxious forwards, is out there. If you are that paranoid about it – just don’t do it.

    None of this nonsense bothers me, and I for one, have hundreds of pics on my facebook page and -omg – most of them are totally public! you don’t even need a FB account to see them.

  32. oncefallendotcom February 24, 2011 at 4:44 am #

    We love fear mongering stories, but most are hypocritical. For example, last night, there was that news report on whether cell phones interfere with our brains. All day the news show was advertising “are cell phones putting your health at risk? Tune in tonight for the surprising results.” The results were… gasp… cell phones do not cause cancer.

    As an aside, Jane Velez Mitchell is hocking her latest book on addictions. Ironically she blasts TV for promoting violence, yet her show is all about rapes, murders, and violence. Its all about making money, and fear sells.

  33. PaulW February 24, 2011 at 5:15 am #

    Regarding the news clip I am of two minds.

    First, I’m kinda glad to know about this. I don’t currently have a phone with GPS capability but when I do, I will turn that feature off for my pictures. Not because I am worried about my children’s safety, I just don’t think it is anyone’s business.

    My other thought about the story is…why does it focus on child predators? Why not rapists? How about ex-girlfriends/boyfriends/spouses that are known to be violent? Not to mention potential stalkers? Are children the only potential ‘victims’ at risk? No. Focusing on the ‘danger’ to children is way to get the highest ratings. Sheesh!

  34. Claudia Conway February 24, 2011 at 5:36 am #

    I just don’t get why these alarmists seem to think that kids are so hard to find that dodgy types will have to resort to hi-tech investigation in order to locate a suitable victim.

  35. Kris J. February 24, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    i already have my photos private to friends only – but not because i feel someone will snatch my kid – but because of the “worries” about child pron. With a photo editing program, almost any “innocent” photo can be made pornographic, without every meeting the child to do him or her actual harm.
    I’m more worried about someone i know stalking me then a complete stranger

  36. SKL February 24, 2011 at 6:27 am #

    Well, they have one thing right – my kids are the cutest. Ha!

    I have to share something I heard on the radio yesterday. An ad for an expensive school including preschool. “At the __ school, your child will meet new friends to play with, discover a love for learning, and feel safe.” With a bit of emphasis on “safe.” Meaning, if my kid doesn’t go there, she isn’t or doesn’t feel safe? Safe from what, exactly? And this fear is one of the top 3 things I should consider in choosing a school? Hmm.

  37. Matt L. February 24, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    Elissa, I think the magnitude of availability is what is different from your example. There are a lot more people with anonymous access to your postings than there are in the drugstore.

    I agree with your central point that it is important to understand and be comfortable with the types of information you put out there. Sadly, I think people do not realize how much information they publish and wouldn’t consider it without the sensationalized news stories. While it is not necessarily a bad thing to publish the info it would be nice if people were to stop and think about what they were doing and ask themselves if it was necessary.

    I haven’t posted kid pics on FB because I have other things to discuss there and would prefer to avoid being a sad cliche.

  38. Elissa February 24, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    Matt, I still don’t see what the issue is. I mean really – who cares? I didn’t care when my pics were sitting at the drugstore, and I certainly don’t care now that they are on line. If, at the drug store, there was 1 in 100 pervs who saw my pics and got their jollies, it was maybe 3 people. If there are still 1 in 100 pervs who see my pics on line and get their jollies – that’s like a million people. I would be a rockstar, or at least a porn star.

    But, I’m not, which leads me to believe that I (and I would imagine for 99.98% of the rest of the people out there) am not so special that pervs need to internet stalk me for my photos.

    Its like saying my chances of catching a fish in the ocean are greater than catching a fish in the backyard pond…i would think the opposite to be true.

    I don’t think people need to ask themselves if something is necessary…the question is – is it necessary to go through the steps to remove this information? Who really could glean more information from this photo than they could with a halfway decent google search? And what about that information is so sacrosanct that I care enough not to share?

    And as to the slam on people who post pics of their kids on facebook. As a person who has no children I find my friend’s kid’s pics far more interesting than any news link, chain-mail status, foursquare check in, song lyric, plea for help on farmville, party invite or “look what I did last night” photos that my other childless friends find the need to post.

  39. Jenne February 24, 2011 at 7:11 am #

    “There are a lot more people with anonymous access to your postings than there are in the drugstore. ”

    *snort* A dedicated amateur photographer I know through the blogosphere had one of her personal (film) photos show up in an ad in the window of a drugstore chain– the chain but not the location where she took the photos to to be developed.

    Interestingly, this scare tactic was originally being publicized as typical of *ALL* digital photography– because the metadata files for digital pictures have a slot for that data. Clearly it’s meant more to help you figure out where and when you took the photo than to broadcast that info. Given how long it takes me to post the average photo off our digital camera, I have to say that nobody’s going to find out our current location from our photos!

    (Then again, I’m blase; I had my personal contact info out of the web for years, and the only really wierd thing that happened to me was that I got a call from an expatriot Croat who wanted to talk –and talk , and talk– to me about my interest in medieval Eastern Europe.)

  40. TRUST The Movie February 24, 2011 at 7:29 am #

    You raise a good point, but online safety is really important. Check out the TRAILER to trust.


  41. North of 49 February 24, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    wait… what? So, I shouldn’t be taking any photos of my kids at all?

  42. treen February 24, 2011 at 7:52 am #

    (LRH – it’s “delusions of grandeur.”)

    I think the GPS on pictures is dumb – why on earth would that be desirable or considered necessary? What’s the point? And I’m not talking safety paranoia here. “Here’s a picture of me at Pensacola Beach” … and you have to look it up on a GPS system to find out where Pensacola Beach is? Really?

    My photos online are on private settings because we’re related to a couple of bogeymen who I have no interest in seeing pictures and stories of my kids … but other than that, whatever. Strangers coming after my kids will have better luck with them at the park.

  43. Larry Harrison February 24, 2011 at 8:01 am #

    Trust The Movie That is yet another situation that happens to maybe 1 in 10 zillion people. That’s not to say it’s not tragic when it does or that some precautions aren’t necessary, but again–it makes it sound like you should NEVER EVER meet ANYONE you know in the online realm. Ever.

    At least that’s what I get from it.

    Indeed, many persons I meet act like “you’re meeting someone in person you met online? Are you nuts?” How many times have persons posted something for sale, I go to buy it, and then they act like I’m John Wayne Gacy because they’re having to commit the appalling act of having to meet me in person to sell it to me?

    It’s way over the top, the fear people have of each other, and based on the trailer shown, I think this movie only fans the flames of it. It leads to the breakdown in community, people not trusting each other, assuming all their neighbors must be psychotic weirdos, which Lenore Skenazy herself has spoken of.


  44. Larry Harrison February 24, 2011 at 8:09 am #

    treen The GPS feature has its uses. If you’re into photography as a hobby & you photograph an interesting spot in an obscure place & wish to be able to re-locate it later for other shots, it helps. If someone else took a photo of that type & you wish to know where it was–that’s a very common question other photographers will ask, “where was that?”–then GPS tagging helps facilitate that.

    Granted, a smartphone camera won’t take quality photos of that, and ironically enough the cameras which do tend to only provide geo-tagging as an option via extra equipment you attach to it.

    I don’t geotag my photos, but I see the point.

    As for your concerns over relatives who are weird, that’s your prerogative, but unless they don’t know where you live & you’re trying to prevent them from knowing, there’s no point in hiding them–if they already know where you live it makes no difference that they merely saw photos. If they DON’T know where you live, again–no biggie unless the photos are unless they’re geotagged. They’ll just be a face in the crowd in the huge world of the world wide web.

    Especially if one’s photos are at a site under a username, “sandman902” vs your real name, it will likely never pull up in a Google search anyway. Only friends whom you give the URL to will ever find it, other persons–them finding it would be as likely as them obtaining your phone number by randomly dialing numbers they guess. This is all the more reason to NOT host photos at Facebook, besides the fact that their photo-handling system absolutely stinks compared to a dedicated photo-hosting site (many of which have security features of their own to start with).


  45. JP Merzetti February 24, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    What have we turned photography into, actually?
    And how much more pedo-feelie-acked are we? – than, for instance…those ancient and terrible Victorians…
    Have we not become just a tad historically challenged?
    (that would be finding good old Victoria in amongst historical perspective – sorta like finding Krakatoa on a map (what’s left of it) or a needle in a haystack…)

    I can’t help feeling like every panic-inducing technological breakthrough is gonna, sooner or later, turn into someone’s big fat profit picture.
    Isn’t there a pattern to this?
    Is it just me?
    Whatever happened to dog-eared 3by5’s fridge-magneted into posterity?

    Why do I feel like I’ve just been cyber-geeked, herded and nerded into comatosed neurosis, all because someone forgot to unplug this toaster:

    We may not be masters of the universe, but we sure are the authors of our own nightmares…
    (I’ll show ya mine if you show me yours.)

    But seriously now – displaying pictorally intimate personal lifed imagery……
    is this not just a tad flowerish? out there in the garden growing alongside the Narcissis? (pl?)

    If one had any smidgeon of suspicion that their personal pups is peeped upon by predatory pervs or preds……then dunna doit, laddie!

  46. bmj2k February 24, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    I sure hope that no pedophiles saw that report. I am sure that just like us, that was news to 99% of them. Way to go news! Keep those child abductors informed on the latest ways to abduct kids!

  47. mdz February 24, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    People are just LAZY!

    I take photos every day, upload most of them to flickr and mark their location. I am absolutely aware of the fact that someone who wished to stalk me could use the timestamps and geotags to work out where I live and what my routines are. But I’ve decided that not tagging my apartment or any private homes I enter with their location data is enough of a safety measure.

    The point is, I made that decision consciously. I stopped to think for a minute and chose what works best for me. Most people are ridiculously cavalier with all the data they share, but fail to understand that the responsibility is ALL their own. They blame everyone but themselves for their information ‘appearing’ in public places.

    It’s not the geo-tagging software’s fault that you use it with your pictures.

    It’s not facebook’s fault that you put your address in it.

    It’s not flickr’s fault that you labeled photos with your children’s names.

    Now, all those actions aren’t dangerous, they’re just something people have to make a conscious decision about. I have a friend who never posts her child’s name or face online- she is not paranoid, she just decided that she doesn’t want to share it with strangers. Everyone else has that same choice regarding their data. Everyone has a personal responsibility to decide how much is too much for them.

    But people are lazy, too lazy to work out what the tools they use are capable of, too lazy to even think about what THEY want! They’d rather someone told them. They’d rather someone made a rule to protect them from themselves. They’re too lazy to think for themselves, so they cry out in outrage and DEMAND to be policed.

    That’s scary.

  48. mdz February 24, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    ““At the __ school, your child will meet new friends to play with, discover a love for learning, and feel safe.” With a bit of emphasis on “safe.” Meaning, if my kid doesn’t go there, she isn’t or doesn’t feel safe? Safe from what, exactly?”

    SKL, my first thought was actually that they would feel comfortable in the school, and feel safe from being bullied, whether by teachers or by other students. For me, feeling safe at school means: being able to trust the teachers, being able to ask the school for help in case of problems both in and out of the classroom…a school SHOULD be a place where kids feel unquestionably safe. It’s practically their second home. But many schools don’t really care so much about being as nurturing as good mothers, so maybe the emphasis was on that.

  49. jenn February 24, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    the only thing that mother of the two boys had to worry about was the newsstalker bringing a camera to her house after he randomly found her kids online and then tracked them down. that’s creepy.

  50. Emiky February 24, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

    Bmj2k: I thought the exact same thing. What a handy bit of info were I a child snatcher. And so much more modern and technologically savvy than partcipating in real world outdoors.

    View point: hilarious! The phone book is too easy for stalking.

    However, I thought the GPS tracking systems were GOOD so you can constantly know where your child is. I’m confused. Are we supposed to turn off GPS on kids’ phones so predators can’t track them down via onlines photos or leave them on so we can rescue them from the more old-fashioned predators?

  51. Scott February 24, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

    Don’t really agree with this one. Articles warning about GPS tagging being a privacy problem is a pretty important one that few people realize. Most people have no idea that by posting photos of themselves at home they are in essence broadcasting their home address.

  52. Emiky February 24, 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Seriously, I’m all for online safety, but that is a very wide term. It’s pretty much impossible to erase what is put into cyberspace, and it’s important to think about what you’re doing, no denying that.

    I figure the choices of online info are comparible to many offline choices. Frankly, I’ve enough online info that anyone can find me if they wanted, and I’m fine with that. In fact, I prefer it. Not to sound paranoid in other ways, but on long road trips I like to Facebook variations locations along the trip not only for the fun of it but also if something should happen I can be more easily pinpointed (though now I see I can just snap photos).

    Yeah, online safety is important, but also up to the individual on what you want to share and protect. I just can’t see much difference between it and real world safety.

  53. Emiky February 24, 2011 at 10:59 pm #

    Scott: it’s good for people to be knowledgeable and aware of stuff like this, no one is denying that. The problem seems to be the idea that it’s so much more dangerous than anything else.

  54. BeQui February 24, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    Did they seriously just say a “menu of nearby children”? That’s the most disgusting phrase I’ve ever heard.

    And funny that the staffer is all freaked out about her kid’s picture being online, but she’s ok with having her posing on the news.

    I would change my settings, too, after this creep with a video camera came up to me who stalked me online.

  55. Matt L. February 24, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

    Elissa – It isn’t that you should act differently, you should be knowledgeable about what you put out there so you can consciously make a choice. That is all.

  56. Kokopuff February 25, 2011 at 12:41 am #

    You do all realize that most of this is the work of some college-age TV news interns chugging down mocha lattes and making plans to get drunk Friday night and thinking of this lame crap (with help from her FB friends) to scare all of you into watching yet another ridiculous no-news story.

    IT’S NOT NEWS. It’s not even very good entertainment. And they’ll only stop making these wack-job segments when you all quit watching them!

  57. pentamom February 25, 2011 at 12:58 am #

    “As an aside, Jane Velez Mitchell is hocking her latest book on addictions.”

    I don’t usually pick on spelling, but this was a funny one.

    I assume she’s hawking the book — would that she WERE hocking it! That would mean she wasn’t making a living writing such trash. 😉

  58. pentamom February 25, 2011 at 1:00 am #

    “Don’t really agree with this one. Articles warning about GPS tagging being a privacy problem is a pretty important one that few people realize. Most people have no idea that by posting photos of themselves at home they are in essence broadcasting their home address.”

    If that’s what it was, just a warning about a privacy problem, I doubt most of us would have a problem with it. It’s the ubiquitous tie-in to the fanciful child-predator nightmare scenario that makes it a bad story.

  59. Kara February 25, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    I think it is interesting this idea of privacy. I grew up in a small town in the late 70’s and early 80’s where everybody knew your business. The idea of being anonymous is an urban concept. The world is becoming just like a giant small town. The postal carriers knew everything (trust me, my mom was one), as did the local video store owner, doctor and grocery clerk.

    I think you should find some comfort that there are a lot of people out there, and a lot of information about them. First someone has to care about finding you. If you are not Angelina Jolie or Justin Bieber you are probably fine. My advice is don’t get famous.

  60. MikeB February 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    What if we use a black magic marker to draw through the eyes of our kids in family photos (like that principal did to the pictures in an elementary school yearbook), will that help?

    Or perhaps if we cover the house in tin foil to screw up the GPS in the phone….

  61. Miki in Japan February 25, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

    I honestly thought that this was a piece picked up by The Onion. Totally ridiculous! Ugh!!

  62. Peter February 25, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    Thanks for mentioning, Lenore!

    That’s why I usually remove metadata before posting photos online, with the help of EXIFcleaner ( http://www.superutils.com/products/exifcleaner/ ) That keeps my privacy on FaceBook and Twitter.

  63. Marion February 25, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    Tim Gill’s excellent book ‘No Fear: Growing Up in a Risk Averse Society’ can be downloaded (pdf) for free at:


  64. Elisabeth February 26, 2011 at 6:41 am #

    I’m imagining some little “sidebar” pieces you can do on your upcoming reality show that could be quite satirically comical and enlightening — for instance, a dramatization of today’s techno savvy predator ignoring all of the obvious places/ways s/he could get her/his hands on a child and relying on complicated, expensive gadgets such as gps locators and such to find a child to abduct. or maybe a dramatization of a couple who are trying to adhere to all the warnings that the media put out and how exhausted they become just trying to keep their kids “safe.” I’m kind of cracking up out loud imagining these being played out on screen…

  65. Rachel February 28, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    Not at all like in the olden days where you would take a film for processing, leaving the shopkeeper with a check (with all your personal details on it), and an extra set of prints if he wanted….
    In fact, that man, sitting in a darkened room, poring over other people’s family photos – no-one thought to require that he get a background check…

    Same issue, but because it’s now technological, everyone gets scared

    I’d rather shake shake shake fearmongering reporters/spindoctors by the shoulders than shake in my shoes…

  66. pentamom March 3, 2011 at 1:26 am #

    “I think it is interesting this idea of privacy. I grew up in a small town in the late 70′s and early 80′s where everybody knew your business. The idea of being anonymous is an urban concept.”

    I somewhat agree, and yet I think there’s a difference between people with whom you have a real life relationship (for good or for ill) knowing things about you, and displaying your personal business for *all the world* to see, as though all the world is actually part of your life. I can’t put my finger on why this matters, but I think it does. Maybe because it’s a kind of inflation, where the value of social intimacy diminishes as its spread thinner?

  67. Janelle March 3, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    A friend just posted this video on FB and comments started flooding in including, “this is shocking, no wonder why we have missing children…I m getting angry watching this…,” “Wow…this is really scary. There is just no privacy in this world of technology/hackers anymore SMH,” and “I would like to punch out their eye’s (sic).”

    I posted some actual statistics on stranger abduction and a link to this page and I swear, you can now hear crickets. I am so glad to have found this blog to help me support what I have been saying since my kids were young and I banned them from the house until they met a new friend whenever we moved (which, as a military family, was quite frequent). All hail Free Range Families!