Warning: Taking Cell Phone Pix of Your Kids Is the Scariest, Most Dangerous Thing Ever!

Hi dfbsytnfbi
Folks! How I love your nose for non-news! Here’s one of the many notes I got today about the “frightening” story that’s gone viral:

Dear Free-Range Kids: Here is the link to something I just saw on Facebook.


Using technology to track where “Little Madison” goes to school and the corner of the playground where she once had her picture taken seems like a lot of (busy) work for a predator.

What kills me even more, and I can’t necessarily put this into words, is how the chain of communication of this stuff works. The news does a segment because it is a slow week. Then someone posts it on Facebook. Then others re-epost because they think this is the kind of thing that makes them a valuable friend and good parent. Suddenly, no one has thought it through, but everyone just goes ahead and assumes there are thousands of stalkers out there and most of them are after your own “Little Madison.” It becomes our self-constructed world. – JJ

Lenore here: Precisely. And what’s amazing as well is this: I wrote about this EXACT same “story,” a few years back. Here’s what I had to say then — and now:

Readers: This “service” piece on NBC Over-Reaction News — sorry, NBC Action 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 find a park, school, or house with a trike in the front yard, at LAST you can, using sophisticated technology.

Which also means (uh, somehow) that SUDDENLY our children are more unsafe than ever, and it is all technology’s fault. 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.

61 Responses to Warning: Taking Cell Phone Pix of Your Kids Is the Scariest, Most Dangerous Thing Ever!

  1. Arianne August 13, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    “And if you DON’T love your children, go ahead and take their pictures, you dreadful parent. You will suffer the consequences!!!!!”

    Bwahahahah! I love when you write stuff like that, Lenore! It kind of reminds me of when I was reading an article in a parenting magazine that warned parents that, as hard as it is, please, PLEASE resist the urge to kiss your baby, as that could expose them to germs, GERMS, I SAY! I was so disgusted that they would discourage parents from denying their most basic instincts by doing such a natural, healthy, wonderful thing.

  2. Suzanne Lucas August 14, 2013 at 1:06 am #

    My facebook feed is full of links to this and everyone freaking out. My life became a lot easier once I realized that my kids just aren’t that special and no one wants to kidnap them.

  3. baby-paramedic August 14, 2013 at 1:40 am #

    I guess if you are hiding out from someone it wuold be a useful thing to be aware of. Most of us don’t have dark scary pasts with people trying to find us.

  4. Russell August 14, 2013 at 2:32 am #

    It’s not the taking of the photos that’s the problem anyway – the dastardly predator can only access the GPS data if you post the pictures in a public place. I can’t fathom why someone would want to post photos of their kids and scream about privacy at the same time.
    I’ve never used Facebook, but Flickr and similar sites have a really useful function for this which you might not be aware of – Geofences. Simply tell Flickr where your home, school, town or whatever is, and how big your fence should be, and any photo that was taken within that circle won’t have GPS data. So that wonderful photo of Little Madison at the beach taken in the summer holidays will show it was in California, Mexico, Australia or whatever, but the photo in the local park won’t show anything at all. You can have lots of these Geofences, or just one really big one covering your whole town or state or whatever.
    Not only do you keep the interesting locations available and hide the contentious ones, you get to keep the data in the photo so in years to come you can see where all those memories were. I wish they’d had GPS enabled cameras when my kids were little!

  5. Liz August 14, 2013 at 8:04 am #

    @Russell – that’s good to know!

    Or, if you don’t want to explicitly share where you live/work/play with big companies like Yahoo, just tell it not to upload or include the EXIF data on your pictures.

  6. Warren August 14, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    All the parents worried about this have probably posted pics of their kids infront on landmarks, signs, or even the school itself. So even without GPS, people can find out what they want.

    This is assuming that you or your kid is so dang special to make someone go thru all that trouble.

    Can someone please explain to me what makes all these kids so special that they just have to be a target of a predator?

  7. lollipoplover August 14, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    Here’s a New Threat:
    Our entire neighborhood of kids will go back to school in September. They attend every day from 8:30-3 AT THE SAME LOCATION. If every predator knows their location, should we start switching it up and coming up with new places to keep those boogeymen on their toes?

    And why focus on tracking pictures of kids? Shouldn’t the adults be equally paranoid about the selfie they took in the bathroom of their home? Now they know where you shower! Someone posted pictures of their manicure and pedicure on Facebook last night. WHAT IF THE FOOT FETISH PEOPLE FIND HER?

  8. Emily Guy Birken August 14, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    I was just telling a friend about my personal “leaving sleeping child in car while I ran a 5 minute errand” story. I had a very angry man yell at me when I came back to the car, even though we were in a very safe suburb of Baltimore and the angry man himself was keeping watch over my kid for the five minutes I was gone. When I told this story to my friend, he responded, “Yeah, it’s not like you were in The Wire.”

    To which I responded, “Even if we were–who wants to steal a kid? They’re a pain in the ass if they don’t belong to you!”

  9. lihtox August 14, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    I can think of one tiny flaw in the argument: pedophiles aren’t necessarily after any child at random. My sense is that many pedophiles fall in love with specific children, just as other people fall in love with specific adults. So if a predatory pedophile stumbles across a picture of your child on the web and becomes smitten with them, they might be tempted to track them down.

    I don’t think this is very likely or something to particularly worry about, but it’s good to be aware of potential counterarguments.

  10. lollipoplover August 14, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    “So if a predatory pedophile stumbles across a picture of your child on the web and becomes smitten with them, they might be tempted to track them down.”

    Most pedophiles know their victims (trusted family friend) so should we not share photos with anyone we know, including friends and family? No Christmas photo cards with tempting pictures of kids dressed in cute dresses? After all, the card includes a return address so they’ll know where you live.

  11. Maggie August 14, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    My husband and I were just laughing about this. Yes, that photo taken at Disneyland is gonna lead a predator straight to, DISNEYLAND! Predators don’t know kids go the Disneyland already?

    It kills me to see this making the rounds on FB.

  12. Garrett August 14, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    Facebook and many of the other social media sites now strip out the GPS location from the photos you upload.


    So the only location that is associated with the photo is the location that you tell Facebook and allow them to publish.

  13. Donna August 14, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    I do think that pedophiles, like most everyone else, tend to be attracted to certain people and not people at random. Nothing is more random than a picture of a stranger on the Internet. The reason that most pedophile victims knew their assailants is not simply ease of access, it is also a result of basic human sexuality. Humans, unlike most other mammals, tend to find sex with someone they know more meaningful than someone they don’t and full sexual atraction requires more than a viewing of a picture on the Internet. Normal mentally functioning people do not see pictures of total strangers on the Internet and develop an instant attraction resulting in stalking them. And while pedophiles are not totally normal, sexual deviance and mentally ill are not the same thing.

  14. lihtox August 14, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    @lollipoplover: No I don’t think that. I’m with Lenore on this one: it’s too small a risk to worry about. I only mention it in case some panicky person brings it up first.

    @Donna: I think people can and do become smitten with people they’ve never met before: celebrities, for instance. Or porn stars: I imagine there are men who have fallen in love with certain pinups, and if they’re unbalanced enough, might try to meet them. So too, a pedophile might be turned on by a particular picture of a particular child they find randomly on the Net, save it on their computer, look at it all the time, etc. (I apologize for being explicit about all this.)

    But that is a good point: only somebody who is a pedophile AND mentally ill would go through all the hassle of tracking a child down across the world using EXIF data, and that narrows the pool of potential stalkers considerably. It’s just not worth worrying over.

    They would have spent their time better focusing on the danger to adults with crazy exes who might track them down.

  15. Donna August 14, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

    @lihtox – I don’t think it is impossible for someone to see a picture of a kid and become infatuated enough to stalk. It is just extremely unlikely. I’ve never heard of it happening to regular folk (as opposed to celebrities). My guess is that the amount of exposure celebrities get makes some mentally unstable people think that they know them so it is much easier to build up delusions surrounding celebrities than a random stranger in a picture.

    We had a client with fixed delusions involving several celebrities. It was both highly entertaining and sad. No amount of medication could dissuade her of the notion that these were her friends. It was very different than any other delusional person that I’ve ever dealt with.

  16. Earth.W August 14, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    I have no issue with letting people know about the geotagging of photos and I don’t mean just with children but with everyone overall. Say you are in a situation where you don’t want people to know where you are such as if you have had to move away from people who cause trouble, then privacy become essential.

    I just don’t like how they have to pump fear into absolutely everything.

  17. Cindy August 14, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    Wow. All this time I was telling folks not to snap and post pictures of their private parts. I should’ve been warning them about photographing their kids. Sigh ….

  18. Papilio August 14, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    Hmm – site seems more cooperative than yesterday…
    [Edit: Never mind! And back to 503 STU…Grrr.]

    I’m rather late asking about it, but Gary, people, how was the Free-Range mom sleepover at Camp Gary’s? 😀

  19. GH Crosby August 14, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    There’s an easy fix that doesn’t require you to turn off your GPS every time you take a picture. Get yourself a CloudLocker (www.cloudlocker.it) and the free mobile app to run it. Then all your pictures are stored safely in the Cloudlocker and you post view-only links to the pix on social media sites. The links don’t have the GPS data, so it’s a completely safe option.

  20. Jeff August 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    I’m big on privacy anyway, so I never understand why people feel the need to post pictures of or information about themselves or loved ones to the public, with or without GPS data.

    Agree with Lenore, though, about how silly this fear is. To work off Donna and lihtox’s comments, the only increase in risk this poses is if someone is specifically looking for your child. But why should we let fear of that 1 person in however many billion people are on the earth affect our choices? There are plenty of more sensible reasons to keep such things private.

  21. Guinnevere August 14, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    It would be nice if we’d stop publishing stories about things that *may* happen because maybe 99% of predators didn’t know this… Now they do. Why teach the few of them there are any new tricks with alarmist articles?

  22. craig August 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    First of all, as Garrett noted, Facebook and Twitter both strip this info from any pictures posted.

    Even if they didn’t, who do you have on your friend list that you don’t trust. Surely you are wise enough to not have your feed public. Even if it were, your name and city you live in are enough that most people could manage to find your address anyway with the power of that other crazy tool – ‘the google’,

    After watching this blow across my facebook feed for days, I finally had to post a status debunking it.

    By the way, the video is almost FOUR years old.

  23. Warren August 14, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    The people worried about this are the same ones you find posting on facebook…..

    “Off on our two week trek across Europe. See you all when we get back.”


    “Going to visit the folks this weekend. Thanks so and so for taking the dog”

    Yet they worry about imbedded locations on their pics.

  24. Paul August 14, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

    I thought Free Range Kids was supposed to be a fact based blog? You are all ignoring the fact that this danger is not just terrifying buy it is ‘legitimately’ terrifying. Go to time index 0:55 in the video and you’ll see the news reporting that fact. And it’s not just a Mom testifying to the fact but a credible news reporter who subjected her own cute daughter to this risk in order to run the tests. If you watch and listen closely you will see many other places in this video where they credibly tell us exactly what to think and feel about this issue, even down to the facial expressions. So please all of you stop applying logic and stick with the facts and conclusions that are legitimately laid out for us in this NEWS pieces.

  25. M Taylor August 14, 2013 at 11:58 pm #

    Ha! My mom used to tell me (when I would worry) that if someone took me, they’d let me go before morning! Perhaps some parents need this reminder that not everyone would be so delighted to be with their little sweethearts as they are! Another thing is what we used to tell my brother when he’d ask if the phone was for him, “what makes you think you’re so important that someone would want to call you?” Yeah we were mean, but he’s fine now! Anyway your article made me want to say, “What makes you think your kid’s so important that everyone wants to kidnap him/her (I bet they’d rather steal mine)!!” Hahahaha!

  26. Jenna K. August 15, 2013 at 12:09 am #

    I’ve seen this posted on so many of my FB friends’ pages and wanted to write something similar to all of them.

  27. John August 15, 2013 at 12:27 am #

    This is a typical case of seeing goblins in the closet. This is what we Americans (with the exception of me and the parents on this blog) always see when children are in the subject line. Considering America is one of the fairest and one of the most civilized countries in the world where most of its people are open minded ans sensible, we seem to make up for those positive traits by also being the most pedophilia paranoid country on the planet!

    This proved accurate when some poor soul in Colorado, who was mistakened for the neighborhood child molester, was beaten unconscious by a mob of angry people. if I hadn’t read the story close enough, I would have thought it was something that happened in Pakistan!

  28. anonymous this time August 15, 2013 at 1:25 am #

    Okay, I’ve heard enough postulating about what a “child molester” or “predator” is or isn’t going to do, what they’re attracted to, etc.

    How about some interviews with actual, convicted “predators”? My guess is that they would provide some of the information, just like serial killers have, about what motivated them to do what they did. My guess is that many parents would draw very different conclusions about what constitutes “protecting” their kids if they understood more about what these “predators” actually do.

    Sure, there’s the VERY odd case of a random kid getting knocked off a bike and stuffed in a van. They’re so damned rare, they’re not even worth talking about, but we do, incessantly. And preventing something like that is like preventing a rare degenerative muscular disease… look, folks, if it’s your bad luck, it’s your bad luck, here you go, sometimes the chips fall in a way that no one could have foreseen, but it’s not your failing as a parent, for God’s sake, and you cannot, CANNOT put your child in a box to try to “protect” them.

    No, the vast majority of children who are harmed by adults, and harmed sexually, are harmed by adults who have ready access to them on a regular basis. Heck, the parents are even RELYING on these people to help care for their kids, usually. I’m talking about spouses, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and “nice” adults who make a special effort to be especially nice to your kid in ways that don’t quite make sense, and your kid starts acting REALLY STRANGE before and after they are spending time with that person.

    And yet so many adults have trained their kids to be “nice” to the “nice” adults, and would never want to seem ungrateful, especially if this “nice” adult is giving their kids “special” treatment, gifts, trips, and kindnesses of the sort that the parents might not be able to provide because of time and resource constraints.


    Predators are very interested in kids who don’t know the proper names of all body parts, who seem ashamed of themselves and their bodies, who are starved for attention and affection and kindness, who are likely to be willingly fobbed off on anyone the parent can sense “cares” about their kid enough to buy them a bunch of stuff… oh, I tell you, if people understood red flags better, they wouldn’t worry for a minute about their dumb digital photos.

    I had a situation where my son’s friend’s dad was buying my son a lot of gifts, taking him to special places, always with the friend along, but it started to be a concern for me. A big concern. I didn’t like it. I told that guy to stay the hell away from my kid, because I didn’t want my kid to be getting all of these “gifts” I didn’t authorize. I never accused him of “grooming” my son, but I sure got a weird vibe from the guy, and I did NOT appreciate his paying any sort of attention to my kid.

    Sure, at times, I might seem a little rude, I guess, toward someone who may or may not mean any harm… but I’d rather stick with focusing on actual people in my kid’s life, than ridiculous fantasies of what “could” happen with a “stranger.”

  29. JJ August 15, 2013 at 6:29 am #

    Jenna “I’ve seen this posted on so many of my FB friends’ pages and wanted to write something similar to all of them.”

    Me too. Any suggestions for what to say? I feel as if those posts have given me an invitation for me to spread common sense instead of hysteria but I don’t want to be insulting or snarky.

    Strangely enough many who posted that link on my Facebook aren’t even parents, though I guess that’s irrelevant. I just don’t see why people pass this stuff along as if its a public service without accepting the obligation to think it through first.

  30. Gary August 15, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    I for one welcome this technology and hopefully when it turns on us I will be rewarded handsomely.

    I also plan to take photos on both TBH and TBA and post it to The Facebook, The Tweeter, The Google, The MySpace and any other media I can find that The Predators frequent.

    I shall leave the prerequisite trike on the front lawn along with a trail of 2T “Daddy’s Lil’ Monster” shirts and size 5 Pampers to the yard where TBH and TBA will be chained to a stake in the yard like they did to that goat in Jurassic Park…remember that scene? how awesome was that? way cool…but The Predators like to hunt not be fed so the chain will have to be at least 10ft long.

    I will then patiently hide in my spider hole for them to come and The Molest my kids and when do I will jump out and yell “boogey woogey!!!” while flailing my arms like one of those intergalactic proton powered electrical tentacled advertised droids that you see down at Darth Harringtons…

    Man that would be so sweet.

  31. Rachael August 15, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    I find it amusing that people are so concerned about having the GPS location on their pics. While, stereotypically speaking, these are the same people who give their kids cell phones and demand that their kids text every time they arrive or depart somewhere. Or install apps that track their real time location. If a predator really wanted to track someone using technology that would be the way to do it.

  32. Mary August 15, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    Those notifications clogged up my facebook feed for about 48 hours. Thankfully, they’re tapering off now.

    It’s like parents have this love/hate relationship with the tracking device. “Put a tracker on little Johnny and Suzie so you’ll know their whereabouts at ALL TIMES because…You just NEVER KNOW! But for God’s sake don’t let ANYONE ELSE know where your children are, EVER! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!!1!”

    It’s hysteria like this that caused me to cancel magazine subscriptions and stay away from sites like babycenter.com. It’s just more than I could handle. I got tired of always being told that I need to second-guess my parenting prowess.

  33. Mary August 15, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    Welcome to “Mom Guilt 101: You Are NEVER EVER Doing Enough!”


  34. Shannon August 15, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Apparently there are others who think this is ridiculous….. I know I’m sharing this link on Facebook. Maybe everyone should…. http://www.daddydoctrines.com/2013/08/13/dear-parents-who-are-panicking-about-secret-stalker-friendly-gps-data-embedded-in-every-photo-of-your-child-stop-it-just-stop-it/

  35. Brenna August 15, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    Really, how narcissistic does one have to be to think their kids are just THAT special that someone will go to that much work? Seriously, I know you love your kids, but parents just have to realize NO ONE ELSE THINKS THEY”RE THAT GREAT! Kids are a PITA, especially if they’re not yours! One of the most paranoid moms I know has twin three year old boys. Who in their right mind wants three year old twin boys that aren’t yours? Yet she is convinced that everyone wants to kidnap them, because people dare to say “what cute twins!” to her in the grocery store.

  36. Papilio August 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Lenore Skenazy ‏@FreeRangeKids 1u
    “Day 3 of blog problems. Can’t post (…)”

    Okay, you helicopter parents: who knew it would be that simple to gag America’s Worst Mom?!

  37. Donna August 15, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    “Lenore Skenazy ‏@FreeRangeKids 1u
    “Day 3 of blog problems. Can’t post (…)”

    Good. It wasn’t just me.

  38. Gary August 15, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    “Yet she is convinced that everyone wants to kidnap them, because people dare to say “what cute twins!” to her in the grocery store.”

    you are so naive Brenna, this is EXACTLY how it happens.

    First the person makes the aforementioned comment and while the mother is temporarily distracted that’s when her accomplices, dressed as celery and Idaho potatoes from the produce aisle, swoop in and abduct the kids, putting them in strawberry costumes before quickly ushering them out of the store.

    Boy if I had a nickel for every time I saw that happen…

  39. Puzzled August 15, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    I’ve had trouble getting in for 4 days.

  40. CLamb August 15, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    In a similar vein journalists are just discovering that it’s not hard for strangers to see pictures from baby monitors. http://boingboing.net/2013/08/14/wireless-baby-monitor-hacked.html

  41. Papilio August 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    For me it was worst on Tuesday, yesterday it was still slow and first attempts would fail but second ones would succes. Today it’s still a bit slow, but nothing truly annoying so far.
    Except that I miss my daily dose of insanity in the form of fresh posts 🙁

  42. Emily August 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    You know what I don’t get? As “dangerous” as it is for people to photograph their own kids in public places with their cell phones, a lot of these same parents want to be able to oversee their children with GPS-like precision while they’re away at summer camp, which has given rise to “camp photographers” at overnight camps, and even DAY camps. Their job is to photograph other people’s kids, and upload them onto the camp website every day, and field calls from parents demanding to know why little Johnny wasn’t smiling during archery (maybe because he was concentrating). Even if that part of the camp website is password-protected, and only available to parents of participants, they don’t all know each other, which would make them, technically, “strangers, as well as anyone who might be visiting, and happen to catch a glimpse. I know it’s crazy, but if people are going to be crazy, they should at least be consistent about it.

  43. Gary August 15, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    It has been brought to my attention that my earlier post about The Predators dressing up like produce might give them ideas and further put The Children in graver-er jeopardy than they already are on a daily, hourly, minutely and secondly basis.

    It is with this in mind that I aim to right that potential wrong by only going to the supermarket dressed as a large rabbit or maybe even a woodchuck, to scare off the potentially child abducty produce accomplices and I suggest you all do the same…

    It is after all, for The Childrens.

  44. JJ August 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    “Come as your favorite produce or woodland animal” is Gary’s next party.

  45. Gary August 15, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    are you out of your freaking mind JJ?

    The last thing we need is my neighbors calling up to report a furry party gone amok…

    “911 what is your emergency”

    “Yes, there is a beaver and a chipmunk…

    look, they are doing something ungodly in the azaleas, could you please send help.”

  46. JJ August 15, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    Gary, strange talk coming from a guy who already threw a broken-slide, used car seat and vodka snow cone party!

  47. Gary August 15, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    we haven’t had it yet, and that wasn’t a party it was potential things to do AT Camp Gary…

  48. Abby August 15, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    Maybe I’m alone here, but I actually DO find this a little frightening. Not because I think it’s likely that some predator is stalking my son and mapping our his bedroom, but because I post pictures of him on Facebook thinking that it’s private (I have friends only settings), when these findings show that NOTHING you put on the Internet is private. There are some savvy criminals out there, and say for example you post pictures of your kids at home, at the park, etc., and then all of a sudden one day you start posting vacation pictures in another state, it’s like saying “Hi, we’re not home, please come rob us.” (I’ve always said this about Foursquare… “I live here, but from this time to this time I’m not home, I’m there instead!” All this shows is that you cannot go posting your life online thinking that it’s private, because the Internet still is what it is.
    And Lenore, the issue here is not TAKING pictures, it’s POSTING them.

  49. JJ August 15, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

    we haven’t had it yet, and that wasn’t a party it was potential things to do AT Camp Gary…

    I can’t keep up with this group!! 🙂

  50. Deborah August 15, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    This “news” clip is 3 years old.

  51. Dawn Pedersen August 15, 2013 at 7:34 pm #

    I did a little debunked of this terror on our group blog: http://tongonto.com/kidnappers-wont-find-your-babys-bedroom-from-a-facebook-photo/

  52. Rachael August 15, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    @abby. Never put anything online you wouldn’t want the world to know. It has always been that way… Way before Facebook ever showed up.and will always be that way. It’s like posting something on the bulliten board at work, there’s a reason it’s called a wall (most everyone can read the writing on the wall).
    Another tip that I employ, don’t post vacation pics until you’re back and unpacked, who wants the stress of updating a social profile while relaxing on a beach anyway.

  53. Donna August 15, 2013 at 9:25 pm #


    No public defender’s office that I have ever worked in has ever had even a single client – of the several thousands of thefts and burglaries we’ve handled – who went into a stranger’s house because he/she happened to read online that the homeowner was out of town. NOT A SINGLE CASE IN 10 YEARS. It just doesn’t happen.

    If you happen to be FRIENDS with people who you think may rob you blind while you are out of town, I would suggest worrying a little more about your choice in friends than what you post on Facebook. If you happen to have family that will rob you blind while you are out of town, get an alarm because they probably know you are leaving town without needing to read Facebook.

    As for criminals being savvy: yes, an extremely small number of them are. There are the rare Barry Madoff’s of the criminal world but they are not wasting their time committing routine house burglaries which net very little money. The vast majority of criminals are too lazy and/or dumb to report to visit a probation officer once a month to stay out of prison. They are certainly not concocting advanced criminal endeavors involving the stalking of strangers on Facebook. In fact, I’d bet on my almost 8 year old against most of my burglary clients if I accidentally left her home while I went to Paris.

  54. Abby August 16, 2013 at 2:25 am #

    10 years ago we didn’t have the social media capabilities that we have today, and there were no smart phones. My digital photos from 7 or 8 years ago have the grainy quality of having been scanned from traditional prints. I only signed up for Facebook in 2005, about 2 or 3 years before everyone and their brother did, because it used to be a college-only social network where your specific school had to be registered on the domain in order for you to have an account, and the only features it really had were profiles and groups, no “checking in,” “status updates,” or even photos. There was no Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram, or high-tech phones with social network capabilities and GPS systems so the whole world knew the second you went out to get sushi. To say that there have been no cases like that in 10 years doesn’t mean that this isn’t something to take seriously, because even 3 or 4 years ago the Internet was so different, and the everyone was not constantly, obsessively connected to the web like we are today.

    As far as making sure your house doesn’t get robbed, it isn’t new that people want to make sure it doesn’t look like nobody’s home. It’s always been prudent to cancel the newspaper, leave a light on, have a friend check in once in awhile, etc., while you are out of town. This isn’t hysteria, it’s just common sense. But to use an app like Foursquare (I recall it doesn’t really have privacy settings so when you post “I’m at home and here are the coordinates,” anyone can see it), and “check in” everywhere, you may as well let the newspapers pile up in front of the only house on the block who “forgot” to put the trash out on garbage day. Most criminals ARE lazy, criminal hackers are not, and can provide info for anyone who wants to commit a burglary. Lazy criminals can go online and search a database, and might even pay for it. Again, not a reason to panic or go crazy, but it is a reason to be prudent about what we put out there, or at least know that we are leaving digital footprints when we use the Internet, and that there are people who have access to whatever we put out.

    I agree that the outcry is a little extreme, and to say that this is the “scariest thing ever” is just paranoia. There are very low odds that some crazy lurker is mapping out my house based on photos I’ve posted on Facebook, and I won’t lose sleep over it or delete everything on facebook like a crazy person. But what this sheds light on is that once you put something out there, it’s out there. I know someone who posted a family portrait as a profile picture, and weeks later, was very upset to learn that it was found by some famous comedian and used on his website with a distasteful joke as a caption. No “harm” was done per se, but it was upsetting to her, and must have felt violating since it had her child in the picture. It is the norm to have a public presence, and this is just totally unprecedented in human history. It’s just a lesson in scaling back on technology and letting some memories just happen offline like they used to. At least, that’s what I get from all of this.

    BTW, I’m not sure how “free range” it is to have your parents clicking photos of your every move and bombarding everyone’s elses day with status updates about your fingerpainting skills. I thought kids were supposed to disconnect and go play outside, sans adult intervention.

  55. Donna August 16, 2013 at 6:36 am #


    These things of which you worry just are not happening. They haven’t happened a single time in the last 10 years that I’ve worked in criminal law. Not sure what relevance the fact that the Internet hasn’t changed 3-4 years really is since it hasn’t happened even once in any of that time either.

    You clearly have an elevated sense of the value of things in your home to other people. Unless you have a lot of expensive jewelry (at which point I recommend a safe), your stuff is worth a few bucks at a pawn shop or Craigslist. No syndicate of criminal hackers is looking to go to all this trouble to net a few bucks pawning your TV. They want your bank account information and your social because that gets them big money. And is very difficult to trace, unlike my burglary clients who get caught daily because pawn shops are required to keep meticulous records. (If you are ever robbed, hit up the local pawn shops for awhile and look for your stuff).

    Burglars are almost invariably poor. It is very rare that one doesn’t qualify for a public defender. Many are drug addicts. These people rarely even have computers, let alone know how to do advanced things with them. They live in Section 8 housing with rented furniture that is constantly being repossessed. Some MAY have pay by the minute smart phones off-and-on (my clients rarely have the same phone number for an entire case). Nor are any of them known for their great planning skills. In fact, most probably just have a GED that they were forced to earn in prison and an intellect to match that achievement.

    And of course you should make your house look lived in if you leave for vacation. My unemployed burglars are constantly roaming the streets and will happily relieve you of your stuff if they think they can get away with it. There is a HUGE difference between seeing a house is empty by walking by and trying to ascertain it on the Internet. However, the vast majority of burglaries happen while the victims are at work and not out of town.

    Now if you happen to be very wealthy with expensive jewelry and art, none of this is true. But if you are in that range, you have alarms and safes and insurance.

    Posting pictures and whatever on Facebook has nothing to do with free range. Irrational fears of criminals and being crime victims does. This is no different than irrationally fearing that your child will be kidnapped the second they leave your sight, only LESS likely unless you have made some bad choices in friends.

  56. Puzzled August 16, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Criminals are not some evil group, hunkering down, waiting for you to leave home. They’re largely poor people with no opportunities. One problem with all this safety stuff is that, implicitly, it creates an image of crime that makes it very hard to address the roots of it.

  57. AnnMarie August 16, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    Oh no! The last thing I heard was to take a cell phone picture of my child every single day so that if she’s missing, I have a recent photo and know exactly what she’s wearing.

    How in the world can I take her picture and NOT take her picture????? HELP!!!!

    I guess we better go back to Polaroids. 😉

    (I am just kidding in this post. I think both ideas are lame.)

  58. bmommyx2 August 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    It’s sad I know so many people who are paranoid about photos of their kids. I know people who will not post on facebook. I know people who are paranoid about others taking photos of their kids in public. Most if not all schools ask you to sign a release to allow photos of your kids. It’s a crazy, crazy over-paranoid world we live in.


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