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Why you should think twice before posting that picture on social media

CNBC logo CNBC 18-08-2016 Jennifer Schlesinger
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Posting and sharing photos online seems innocuous, but you could be inadvertently leaking sensitive business and personal information, according to experts. 

Virtually all smartphones can track you through what is known as geotagging, adding location data from satellites. If you leave your phone's location services on, this information is added to your photos by default. The tag stays with the picture even after it's shared online, allowing you to be tracked.

Chris Hadnagy, CEO of Social-Engineer, a cybersecurity consulting company, showed CNBC how easy the process is. He used a common tool found in most Macs — called Preview — to gain the GPS coordinates from a picture he found online.

"I just take … those coordinates, and you pop them into something like Google Maps," said Hadnagy, who trains law enforcement and businesses on the dangers of location sharing.

Once in Google maps, Hadnagy found the city, neighborhood and exact house the picture was taken in.

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While Hadnagy demonstrates to raise awareness, others may have more sinister intentions.

Arturo Galvan of California is accused of finding his 33 robbery victims through pictures they posted on Instagram. He used the GPS coordinates in the pictures to track where victims live and then came by to steal electronics, wallets and more, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office. Galvan pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

It's not just personal information at stake, and businesses need to be alert.

If employees share photos of their business travel online, sensitive information can be gained, according to Hadnagy. 

"What organization you're visiting, what business you're in. ... What kind of contracts you're working on, which is a really serious matter," he said.

Location data is increasingly used by smartphone apps. For example, the wildly popular "Pokemon Go" only works if location is turned on.

"It's just a game. But it uses your geolocation data as part of that game," said Hadnagy.

To protect yourself, go into your settings and turn off the camera access to location. Most devices have this on by default.

Also, evaluate if an app really needs to know your location. Most new smartphone operating systems let you deny certain apps access to location data.

In addition, you could turn all location services off, but that will prevent application like Find My iPhone and Maps from working. 

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