Internet Hoaxes: That Cell Phone Picture Won’t Lead to Child Abduction. Also, Obvious Hoax is Obvious.


"Hey, kid.  Are you IP address  Oh, and do you want some candy?"

“Hey, kid. Are you IP address Oh, and do you want some candy?”

Won’t someone please think of the children?

That’s pretty much the theme of the latest “the web is watching” meme to hit Facebook and Twitter.

In this one, parents are warned about taking cell phone photos of their children and then posting them online.  Apparently, it is a dangerous, reckless parenting practice.  A blog entry advising this fact has gone — brace yourself for the “V” word — viral.  Mostly, I assume, from its paranoia-tinged rhetoric.  I’m sure you’ve already come across it:

WARNING!!!! If you take photos with your cell phone

“Warning” If you, your kids or grand kids take pics from your phone—WATCH THIS!

This is truly alarming – please take the time to watch. At the end they’ll tell you how to set your phone so you don’t run this risk!


I want everyone of you to watch this and then be sure to share with all your family and friends.

It’s REALLY important info, about what your posting things on your cell phones can do TO YOU!!!

Too much technology out there these days so beware………..


If you have children or grandchildren you NEED to watch this. I had no idea this could happen from taking pictures on the blackberry or cell phone. It’s scary.

It then links to an NBC Action News report on the ability of strangers to find your children via tracking software.  Almost 13 million people have watched this video.

Nowhere in all of this does it point out the obvious: The easier way for someone to find your child?  By standing outside their home or school.

Ah, school.  You know, that place where hundreds of children are all wandering about, just ripe for the picking.

Here’s the rub, though.  Because no one is actually taking the easier route to napping your kid, it is highly, highly unlikely that anyone would be bothered with the more difficult one.

*          *          *

A decade or so ago, while working with Peterborough Green-Up, I assisted on a survey that looked into why parents drive their kids to school.  Not surprisingly, we found that the most popular excuse in Peterborough — and I do mean excuse — was that parents feared for the safety of their children.  Some creep or weirdo out there was going to make off with their adorable little poppets and chop them into kibble.

And then probably eat them.

With fava beans.  And a nice Chianti.

After ten years of working closely with environmental groups and transportation planning committees, I’ve come to a realization of why most kids are actually driven.  Helicopter parents, you see, don’t like their kids to walk alone.  Anywhere.

What’s more, they also really don’t like to have to walk their kids to school themselves.  There’s, well, weather.  And distance.  Uphill both ways and all of that.

They do, however, like to idle their vehicles in school zones, making their child’s walk to the car a toxic sludgery of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and plenty of other really nasty emissions.  They also clog school zones with traffic, making it much more likely that a child will be hurt or killed due to automobile usage.  But I digress.

Ironically, when I dug deeper into the issue, I found that the chances of a child being abducted by a stranger were, well, astronomical.  There were less than a handful of incidents in any given year for the millions of children in Canada.  Actually, between 200o and 2001, the two years before I was part of delivering this survey, the exact number was 2.  A single child per year.  A recent CBC article backs up this stat.  And things really haven’t changed in the ensuing decade.

Meanwhile, between 6 and 12 Canadians get hit by lightening each and every year.

Perhaps, instead of worrying about Facebook photos, parents should be investing in personal electrical grounding systems for their kids — that, or really, really thick rubber shoes.

And that nice, safe car trip?  Almost 300 Canadian kids between the ages of 5 and 19 die each year in automobile accidents.

Yup.  300.  Every single year.

The number one destination for these fatal car trips?  To school, or back home from school.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other recent studies that indicate that driving children to school makes for a more dangerous school zone for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians alike.  If you are really worried about your tyke, you may want to keep your car out of school zones.

Oh, remember that toxic sludge that I mentioned before?  The Canadian Medical Association estimates that Canada’s air pollution is responsible for 21,000 premature deaths, 92,000 emergency-room visits and 620,000 visits to a doctor’s office each year, and that the economic cost of air pollution-related illness and death in Canada tops $8 billion a year.  The chances of those stats including your child?  One heck of a lot higher than an internet-planned abduction.  The chances of it affecting the quality of their healthcare?  100%.

Among the most hazardous places for vehicle emissions?  School zones.  Where helicopter parents hover in a haze of exhaust.

I wish I were making this up.

Kind of makes that Instagram photo somewhat inconsequential, doesn’t it?

*          *          *

OK, so here’s the deal.

No one is taking off with your kid anytime soon.  And if someone does, chances are pretty good that they already know where to find the little over-protected rugrat.  They sure as heck don’t need Mapquest.

There is no cyber-stalker searching the web to find out how best to steal your 6-year-old.

And the intenetz — particularly Facebook — is home to no shortage of myths, urban legends, and sensationalized slow-news-day cries for attention.  They are second only to kittens in the flotsam and jetsam of online postings.

This meme, really, should remind us of two things, neither of which are about your children.

1.  Lock down your social media and you have no worries.  For cripes sake, people.  If you don’t know how to turn on the privacy controls of your social media site, you should not be using that social media site.  And, no.  Facebook is not constantly changing its system and allowing people to access your information.  That is nothing but an online hoax.

2.  Right.  Facebook (and the internet) is full of online hoaxes.  Absolutely jam-packed, stuffed to the gills, obscenely obvious in both quantity and quality, with hoaxes, exaggerations, and sensationalized news pieces.

And you could well be helping to make things worse.  Just think, every time you click “share” on one of these malodorous bits of sensation or scammery, you are aiding in the proliferation of internet hoaxes.  You’re also squeezing out some of the truly important pieces of news and public safety that get squished out of the way by the sensationalism.

Either that, or you’re helping to make the really true bits that much less believable.

Probably both.

So I ask you…  Regular users of the internet ask you…  People who regard truth as an important part of communication ask you…  Please, please think before you “share.”  Take a moment to consider a story before you re-post it on your wall or newsfeed.  If you’re unsure of whether or not something is either falsified or sensationalized, take a moment to research it.  Answers are only a Google click away.  Snopes is often a good place to start.

If something seems too strange or odd to be true?  Chances are good that it’s not.  The internet is like life itself, a lot more predictable than you think.

As they say on the webz: Obvious hoax is obvious.

But I know that you’re better than that.

If not?  At least just pretend.  And keep the heck off my newsfeed.



As of the first 4 hours, this post had received over 25 thousand hits.  I’ve seen it shared freely on Facebook and Twitter.  It has spawned some great discussion.

The one point of counter-argument that I have seen repeated is that the actual privacy concerns are not really a hoax.  That they exist and we should be wary of them.  Really, no one has argued that this is an actual threat to children.

I did choose the word hoax on purpose.  And, while I became wary of my headline verbiage after some repeated questioning of it, I have done a bit more research on the subject — and am quite glad that I didn’t change it.

From some pretty good digging, I’ve found that GPS data is actually stripped from photos posted on Facebook and Twitter, much as I suspected.  My belief was that the formatting of photos probably stripped them of extraneous information.  It appears that I was close.  It is actually a data-saving method for these massively data-heavy social media sites.  Essentially, they make their corner of the web run smoother by cutting down file sizes — probably the same reason that you can no longer see full-size images on Facebook (as you once could).

In light of this, I would say, yes. This is a hoax.  There is no location data being leaked from Facebook or Twitter. Which makes this story 100% false.  Or, in other words, a hoax.

Here is a link to one of a few articles I found on the subject.

Want it straight from the horses mouth?  Here is Facebook clearly stating that metadata is not viewable to Facebook users.

Now you can Geotag on Facebook.  But you’d actually have to click the geotagging button to do so.  And even then, apparently, it is not hugely accurate.

Thank you to everyone who has read, shared, and discussed this entry.






2 thoughts on “Internet Hoaxes: That Cell Phone Picture Won’t Lead to Child Abduction. Also, Obvious Hoax is Obvious.

  1. I remember all the hoaxes shared via e-mail in the 1990’s. Now we have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for people to carelessly share false information.

    Thank you for recommending that we think & research before we “share” and do our best to combat the fear of parents about their children going outside and walking alone. As an outdoor educator, it is a challenge to educate “helicopter” parents. has recent article on this cell phone photo and child abduction hoax here.

    David Spencer

Comments are closed.