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NEWS10 ABC on Fox23 Special Report: Protecting your privacy on social media photo posts

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Updated: 11/14/2013 10:41 pm

ALBANY, NY --  It's the reality of the new social media world -- a single picture shared on social media sites like Instagram can give anyone access to private information. What may seem like just an innocent picture could cost you your safety and endanger your family.

This story begins with a couple who just purchased a new home. As Eric, one of the new homeowners, parked in his driveway one morning, he was met by NEWS10 ABC’s Trishna Begam and Albany County Sheriff's officer Chad Hotaling. 

Eric didn’t know them, but they certainly knew him. Obviously they knew were he and his wife lived. They knew his name, his wifes name, his daughters name, and that he had just moved into the home. 

With shock and surprise evident on his face, Eric wasn't sure what was going on. But the details two strangers knew about him and his family didn’t stop there. 

Begam and the officer knew that Eric’s family had vacationed in Cape Cod in both 2012 and 2013. 

When asked if that information —  information Deputy Sheriff Hotaling says Eric's family may not want in everyone's hand — was too much for them to know, Eric agreed. 

"If the eyes of a predator sees the information, who knows what they'll do with that,” Hotaling explained.

But how did they find out so much about Eric and his family? A half an hour before meeting him, Trishna Begam sat down with NEWS10 ABC Engineer, Anthony Cassone.

A simple search feature allowed them to track Eric's entire life through geo-tagged photos his wife posted on Instagram.

"You can see she spends a lot of time in Albany,” said Cassone while looking through the images. 

The pictures paint a vivid picture of a mother's life, her daughter, the family dog, and a loving husband in front of their brand new home.

While this information may seem innocent at first glance, it quickly becomes disturbing when Cassone easily discovers their daughters name. In just five minutes he was able to gather the details of Eric's life, pinpointing exactly where some of the pictures were taken. And in the corner of a recently posted picture, the exact location of Eric's new home was revealed. 

"That's definitely too much information for someone I don't know,” said Eric when Begam revealed that she had seen the inside of his home through the photos. 

The Director of Research at the New York State Center for Information Forensics, Sanjay Goel, said with more social accounts to keep track of, privacy gets neglected.

"It's hard for people to manage all of them," he said.

It was also difficult to find exactly where to change privacy settings when NEWS10 looked into the settings. Begam quickly learned you can't change Instagram settings on your web browser, but only through mobile devices. 

Goel said this makes it hard for users to know whether the setting exists or not. 

Within minutes of Begams arrival, Eric and his wife quickly discovered and changed their settings.

"So I just walked in the house and I made a reaction like, wow! She said I already changed the settings. It's going to be more private," Eric said.

Find out more about social media privacy settings:

Facebook Privacy Help Center:

Twitter Help Center:

Instagram Privacy & Safety Center: 

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