We’ve all heard the stories of families who have been over-eager to share their holiday snaps on social media whilst still away and have returned home to a burgled house.
But with the latest data revealing that an astonishing 90% of people now keep the location services function on their smartphones switched to “on” as a default, and with almost every app available now using some sort of location tracking, there is more of a digital footprint of our activities than ever before.
When you also add into the equation that over a third of people have accidentally shared their location via a social app without realising it and more than three-quarters of people have included a geotag when posting on social media, then the outlook gets even bleaker!
This is music to the ears of burglars who use location services to know when homes are vacant to plan their robberies. In fact, 54% of convicted ex-burglars agree that one of the most common mistakes that homeowners are making is placing their status and whereabouts on social networking sites.
Especially when you consider that 49% of burglary offenders are known to the victim, suggesting that it could well be a Facebook ‘friend’ who’s keeping an eye out on your movements! This is even more dangerous when you consider that 78% of burglars use Facebook and Twitter to target potential properties.
Whilst burglaries in the UK were down during 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, homeowners have been told to brace themselves for a spike in burglaries as restrictions have now eased.
Ironically, in some places in the UK, GPS data is now being used to combat burglaries rather than cause them and since GDPR and recent high profile stories of burglaries figures have actually dropped.
However, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of location sharing as we move into an ever more digital world and it’s for that reason we have listed all the most shocking and interesting location sharing and burglary statistics available as of this year below.
As Security experts, we’ve also given some tips on how to avoid the common location sharing pitfalls and keep your home safe from opportunistic burglars.
Location Sharing & Burglary Stats
- 78% of burglars use social media to target properties (ADT, 2017)
- 49% of burglary offenders are known to the victim (House Beautiful, 2018)
- Over 93,000 risky social media posts were identified across the UK in 2018 (House Beautiful, 2018)
- 90% of people keep location services on their smartphones switched on (GeoMarketing, 2016)
- 74% of convicted ex-burglars state that, in their expert opinion, Google Street View is playing a role in many of today’s home thefts (Honeywell/Friedland 2019)
- More than 2.5 billion people own a smartphone (The Manifest, 2019)
- The average smartphone owner uses 9 apps per day (The Manifest, 2019)
- Over ⅓ of people (37%) enable location tracking on 6-11 apps – almost all the apps they use daily (The Manifest, 2019)
- 54% of convicted ex-burglars agree that one of the common mistakes homeowners make is placing their whereabouts on social platforms. (Honeywell/Friedland 2019)
- Almost all smartphone users (81%) know how to adjust their phone’s location settings but may not realize their attempts to block location tracking are actually ineffective. (The Manifest, 2019)
- More than half of people (57%) are comfortable with apps that track their location (The Manifest, 2019)
Tips to Avoid Location Sharing Burglaries
- Wait until you get back home from holiday before posting your photos – this is rule number 1!
- Know how to turn geo-tagging on and off on all your devices, and regularly review applications that may use location-sharing services.
- Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know – whilst most of the time it’s a long lost school friend looking to reunite, there are many fake accounts created solely to add you as a ‘friend’ on Facebook or ‘follow’ you on Twitter to track where you are.
- Be careful posting photos of private spaces such as your workplace or your home. Geotagging can give possible intruders the address and entry-point they need for a break-in.
- Better yet, don’t tag yourself in locations or geotag any of your pics – We know it can be tempting to tell the world what a great time you’re having but make sure to disable your location in your phone settings to give criminals less of a chance.
- Set your social media accounts to private – So this might be the hardest rule of all to follow if you’re a social media butterfly but by setting your profile to private you’re ensuring only trusted friends and family can see your social posts.
- If you have already taken a photo and still want to share it: Don’t publish it directly from your phone. Instead, convert them to PNG file format and publish them from your desktop computer.
Jamie Pugh from Roché Systems explains: “A lot of us are guilty of broadcasting our location over social media to show what we’ve been up to. Some apps can be equally risky as they share your location and could be alerting followers to your whereabouts”
“Small precautions like setting your social media profile to private, and checking the location setting on your phone, will reduce the risk of you becoming a target. Investing in physical security can further reduce the risk of your home being targeted by deterring burglars from trying to gain access”
It’s not only about tagging the places you are at: if your location is turned on, that data is recorded, even if the casual viewer can’t see it. As Gerald Friedland, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute, puts it “Any 16-year-old with basic programming skills can do this“. So pull out your phone right now and do not allow any apps to use your current location, or at the very least, disable the geotagging function before taking and sharing your images.