Your social media posts could be putting you at risk.
While we don’t know if social media played a role in Kim Kardahsian West being held up at gunpoint in a Paris hotel, some have said that her frequent posts in the hours before the robbery could have helped inform the people behind the attack.
While it’s still speculation at this point, it serves as a good reminder for everyone celebrity or not to be conscious of what they’re sharing on social media. Even the smallest updates can give criminals clues to your location.
If you don’t want to quit posting to social media, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Here’s what you need to know about the accounts you may already have.
While Snapchat doesn’t allow you to tag your exact location in the same way other social networks like Facebook and Instagram do, your snaps can still give away much more than you realize.
Geofilters, for example, can easily identify a venue, neighborhood or specific event. This could be particularly problematic when you share to your Story, as these snaps are timestamped, making it easier to trace your whereabouts.
One way around them something the Kardashian clan is apparently already aware of is to post to Snapchat in airplane mode only. This is a workaround that allows you to “save” posts, since the app doesn’t actually have a save feature. Later, you can add the photos once you’ve left airplane mode by tapping “retry” on the failed posts (just remember to post in the original order.)
Additionally, with the new memories update, you can share photos to your Story that are saved in your Camera Roll. And photos that are less than 24 hours old will appear as they normally would, without the white border that appears when you share older photos.
While Instagram doesn’t tag your photos’ location by default, there’s still a decent chance you have unwittingly shared a location you didn’t mean to at some point.
A previous version of Instagram allowed photos to be geotagged with your location when you uploaded them, even if you didn’t manually add a specific location. This means that you could have accidentally tagged the location of your home or workplace, and had it publicly viewable, without realizing it.
To check, take a look at your Photo Map (the tab with the location pin on your profile) and zoom in to see the locations of your photos, paying particular attention to the areas near where you live and work.
If you want to remove a tag, select “edit” in the top right corner of the app and then select the photo to remove the geotag and tap “done” to save.
The app has since made maps only accessible to the account owner. Instagram is also in the process of removing the Photo Map feature, so this problem should solve itself eventually. But it’s not a bad idea to check it out before then, just in case.
Facebook and Twitter
If you shared your location on your last update, both Facebook and Twitter will automatically use your location on your next post. Note that both apps will default to your current city, rather than a specific venue. Neither will show anything more specific than the name of the city or a generic map view of the city.
If you want to attach a specific place to a Facebook update, you’ll need to add a check-in to your update. Likewise, with Twitter, you can add a Foursquare venue.
In both cases, this will make your post searchable by location (if the post was shared publicly), so you may want to avoid sharing an exact location until after you leave. Additionally, Twitter has a “share precise location” option that is probably best avoided in most cases.
Other than removing the general location tag itself, the best thing you can do is avoid posting content that makes it easy to identify your exact location at least until after you have left. This is something you can weigh on a case-by-case basis. If it’s a large public event, like a concert, you may decide it’s OK to share where you are. (In Kardashian’s case, for example, people have pointed out that while her posts aren’t geotagged, the posts themselves made it easy to guess where she was staying.)
As always, if you’re not sure about something, it’s probably best to err on the side of being cautious. And don’t be afraid to delete a post if you have second thoughts.