Forbes – Don’t Get Caught Pants-Down This Holiday: 5 Mobile Privacy Nightmares To Avoid
by Miko Matsumura
November 19, 2012
Now that over half of the United States owns a smartphone, and nearly 20 percent of consumers report that device to be their primary camera, everyone should be on the alert about the privacy of their videos and pictures.
Just snapping pictures on your smartphone can expose you to embarrassing, frustrating, creepy or even downright dangerous situations. Here are five real-world threats that you can avoid by taking simple precautions on your device:
1. Busted. Two students were suspended when they saw a topless photo of their teacher on the classroom iPad. The iPad was automatically synced to her iPhone, which was how the picture made its surprise and revealing appearance. Apple‘s photo sync does this automatically, so the teacher probably had no clue it was happening. Sadly these kids were punished for violating their school’s technology policy, when they didn’t actually do anything wrong. But imagine the teacher’s mortification and the impact to her career and reputation. Before you find yourself on the receiving end of workplace or school disciplinary action, check out your own auto-sync settings.
2. Shut down. One Dutch user, ‘WingsOfFury’ uploaded nine GB of his own stuff to Microsoft SkyDrive, and suddenly found his entire Windows Live account suspended; he lost access to his Hotmail, Xbox Live, App Store, etc. Solutions like Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft SkyDrive, Facebook and Google Plus are increasingly automatically uploading everything in your photo gallery to the Internet. Even if you think “Damn you Autocorrect” is hilarious, you might not find auto-upload so funny, especially when it leads to account suspension or legal action.
3. Tossed out. How would your spouse view pictures of that one bar you went to after CES closed? You’d be surprised how central the smartphone is to marital discord, whether it’s texts or websites or questionable pics.
You might not have anything to worry about, depending on what kinds of images and videos are sitting on your handset. But as we know, what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas… unless it comes home with you on your iPhone.
4. Stalked. Smartphone photos often leave a location imprint on images which allow stalkers to find locations including home address, workplace, favorite restaurants, and play spots, and even to develop a schedule of your daily activities. This gets even scarier if you take pictures of your kids! The site IStalkU.com provides a lot of information about how to control your smartphone and media settings, but combine this with automatic picture uploading and your privacy becomes seriously at risk for stalkers.
5. Humiliated. Imagine your Great Aunt Mary’s surprise as you pass your phone around the Thanksgiving dinner table, as an accidental finger swipe reveals a whole new side of you. Most people don’t think about the pictures on their phone or how they will be seen by friends and family, but you might be eating a different kind of pie this year if you’re not careful. Even if you’re not hiding a secret life, you may have to answer some awkward questions or have an unexpected conversation in front of the entire extended family.
What do all these scenarios have in common? Every single one is avoidable.
Each of these no-no’s was preventable, had the smartphone owners taken their mobile privacy seriously. Whether you’re worried about a private pic making its way public or opening yourself up to creepy stalkers, arguably the worst place to store your pictures is in the default photo gallery on your phone. It’s the target of many automatic sync and upload programs and the easiest place for snoops to do their snooping or embarrassing gaffes to happen.
You might consider using a free photo privacy app, which keeps pictures safe inside of a secure, password-protected vault. Some even offer the ability to take pictures from *within* your safe app, so that pictures don’t accidentally end up on the Internet or out of your control.
But either way, the holiday season is here — which means tradeshow season is right around the corner. So do everyone a favor and take a few minutes to get your smartphone in order now. Consider it an early New Year’s resolution that just might save your job, your dignity or your marriage.
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