Smartphone app updates could be a safety risk

Smartphone app updates could be a safety risk

COLUMBIA, Mo. - It's something smartphone users do often; uploading pictures and posting on social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook.

But a simple software or application update could completely change a person's custom set privacy preferences and pose a safety risk.

"It really depends on the size of the update," said Marcus Files, a computer technician with Nate's Computer Repair. "For example, when you jump from iOS 6 to iOS 7, that's a significant update that will generally re-set a lot of your settings, a lot of the main ones."

A user can find out which apps are tracking their location on an iPhone by going to "Settings," selecting "Privacy" and then selecting "Location Services."

Most applications will ask a user if they accept the "New Terms and Agreement" after an update. If the user selects "Yes," that could mean the privacy settings were re-set.

Files said this can make it very easy for an online predator to track someone down to their exact location, right down to the GPS coordinates. 

To demonstrate how easy it would be to track someone, ABC 17's Jillian Fertig took two pictures and uploaded them to Facebook via the smartphone app.

One photo was posted with the Facebook location settings on and the other was posted with the location settings off.

"I've just become your friend about five minutes ago, and since then, you've taken two photographs," Files explained. "And we can see on the computer, it gives us when it was posted and the place it was posted. So here it says 'Columbia, Missouri.'"

But a predator could find out even more than just the city where Facebook says a photo was posted.

"With the right applications and the right software, someone could take this photograph, which has more information than what we see here, and they could actually pull out your exact time you sent it, the exact location, much more definitive than just being 'near Columbia, Missouri,'" Files said.

He said it's important for parents to pay attention to the apps their kids are using and to check privacy settings frequently to make sure this type of tracking can't happen.

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