MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Your social media presence and favorite apps could be leaving a trail for the wrong people to track you down. It seems like just about every mobile app you install these days requests access to your location data, which could put you and your loved ones at risk.
Stanton Greenawalt, a cyber security professor at Horry Georgetown Technical College, said applications are a lot like a webpage, just formatted so it can be conveniently used within your smartphones or tablets.
So just how trackable are your apps? We live in a digital age where almost all applications will request to track your location and can provide other users or app developers with more information than you might wish to intentionally share.
Greenawalt said everything is trackable and your device’s applications all have a unique identification.
Many people mindlessly download free apps without paying attention to the installment process, and Greenawalt says the problem with that is you could also be downloading additional tracking devices along with it.
Although you may be downloading free applications, experts say many times your smartphone information is being sold to third parties for marketing purposes.
From there, the third parties can track your phone activity, like your internet browsing history. Also, be aware if your social media app privacy settings aren’t secure, as experts say predators can easily track you down.
“If that person’s active on Twitter, if that person’s active on Facebook, they can start predicting where that person goes and what their likes are. Particularly the young ones, because they’re not positioned to think that someone’s going to be tracking them. They just think that it’s fun that a friend knows they we’re at McDonald’s today,” said Greenawalt.
The Horry County Police Department encourages parents and their children to be aware of the apps they’re using daily. Police also encourage you to check the settings on each app and on the device you’re using. Location tracking can typically be disabled, especially for apps like Instagram or Snapchat. Experts recommend limiting the use of location tagging services, or at least make your posts private to limit the user’s audience.
Greenawalt recommends clearing your browsing history and cookies regularly. He also says be aware that many times your apps could still be running in the background, even if you aren’t using it.
“If you know that sometimes your phone will just get really hot, and people will notice and go wow and the only way to do that is turn it off. Well because these gaming or applications are set, they’ll be in a passive mode. But they’ll really be running in the background while you don’t know it. And so, they’re still tracking data and seeing what you’re using in that," Greenwalt said. “So, another good habit is turning your phone off completely every once in a while and turn it back on. And that will flush it and give it a clean new start. Plus, you don’t have those particular applications running in the background.”
Police also say parents and children should be very careful about who they communicate with on social apps and to keep your internet social circle limited only to those you trust.