According to local media reports, a Japanese man was arrested for stalking and sexually assaulting a young pop star whom he located through the reflection in her eyes in a picture.
The suspect confessed that he had spotted a train station reflecting in the star’s eyes from a selfie she posted online. He told police that after zooming in on her eyes, he identified the station using Google Street View.
He studied videos the victim shot in her apartment and looked for details to determine exactly which floor she lived on.
Consequently, this case raises awareness about the risks social media users who post high definition pictures of themselves take.
“Higher quality images allow for more details to be identified that can help with geolocation, and the more reference imagery there is from services like Google Street View, the higher chance there is of finding a location,” Eliot Higgins, the founder of investigations site Bellingcat, which has pioneered online investigative techniques, told the BBC.
“Even the tiniest details can reveal a lot of information about where a photograph is taken, and information about the individuals in the photograph,” he said.
“Never post anything online you wouldn’t want your boss, partner, or worst enemy to see. Even what seems like the most private setting online can be exposed, just ask Coleen Rooney.”
For his part, Shuichiro Hoshi, a professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University and experts on risks on social media told the Tokyo Reporters that “The picture quality of smartphone cameras has become very fine, and a new risk has arisen in which private information is being leaked unexpectedly”.
“In other words, the risk of a so-called ‘digital stalker’ is on the rise. As a result, countermeasures are required when posting to an SNS, such using photos that do not include location information or deliberately reducing the image quality,” he added.