Before you post that picture in front of your home...

... Know that a "nondescript" building can still be located

Last week I posted the following photo, and asked my followers to tell me my exact location:

The first person to correctly geolocate me was Alex de Campi. She did it in less than an hour AND she provided her very straightforward method:

Other people followed suit:

Brandon, meanwhile, made a very good point, because he illustrated exactly how a potential stalker would think:

There were other good contributions, and I thank everyone for participating, as always.

Why is all of this important? Well, first of all, it’s because I recently taught a class where a participant argued with me that if you live in a building that’s “generic,” you’re likely not exposing your address if you pose in front of it.

So, we used a picture of me in front of a building that looks VERY generic, and just look at some of the clues you can pick out after merely a glance:

Stare longer, and you can pick out more. The mask, for example, ties us to a certain time period. The tree will stand out on Google street view. The landscaping can give us clues about the neighborhood, etc.

As Patrick Dunlop reminded us, you can use certain filters for elevators/number of stories in order to narrow down real estate, once you know the general area (my Twitter lists my location as Washington D.C., but based on the amount of space in the picture alone, you can tell it wasn’t taken in the capital itself):

What this illustrates is that anyone with enough time and dedication can find you. Again, I’m not saying this to make you feel paranoid. I’m saying this so that you can actually know what information you’re giving away when you post a picture of a “generic” building.

Parents frequently ask me to speak to their kids about this. Both teenagers and adolescents are very practical creatures, and as they often point out, “Who cares if someone knows where I live?”

On the one hand, it really shouldn’t matter. Just yesterday, I got a typed letter from someone who read about me in a book, then easily dug up my address and decided to get in touch to ask me to “call” him. Stressful? Yes. But that’s life.

On the other hand, it’s children in particular who can be easily groomed and/or threatened online. Imagine a child who gets into a “friendship” with a clever predator, accidentally reveals their location via an innocent photo, and then is subjected to, “Don’t tell your parents, or I’ll come kill them” or something equally heinous.

This stuff happens, and considering the fact that it is very hard to monitor predators online (convicted predator Scott Ritter is right there on Twitter, for example! And writing for various publications, RT included!), it’s good to figure out ways to help the people you love, kids especially, protect themselves.

So please pass this information on to someone who may need it!

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