Why You Should Reconsider Geotagging Digital Photos

Are the photos you are posting to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites giving viewers too much information? If you have geo-tagging turned on for your digital photos, you may be broadcasting more than you know and in this age of cyber-stalking, you may want to strongly consider turning off geo-tagging permanently on your mobile devices and cameras.
 

As a parent of two small children, the thought of inadvertently posting where my kids live, where their favorite park is and where they go to school definitely made me rethink the whole idea of geotagging my photos. (Thankfully I turned this off a while ago when I upgraded to the iPhone5) Geo-location can certainly be helpful for keeping a digital footprint of where you have been for traveling and organizing your photos, but it also raises privacy concerns, especially if you ever lose your phone or someone decides to start tracking you or your kids based on photos posted online.
 

 

Where is the GPS Information Stored?

 

You may or may not know this, but your camera stores all sorts of data in all of your photos. Information such as aperture, shutter speed and ISO are harmless enough but photos can be tagged with the latitude and longitude of where it was taken as well. All of this is stored in the EXIF data which is an extra piece of information attached to every picture you camera takes. This data has been around since the beginning of digital photography and in the beginning, there probably wasn’t much thought about privacy since social media wasn’t around. Now, it is vitally important that you think about privacy concerns and photos posted online.
 

How Can I Check if My Photos Have Been Geo-tagged?

 

Anyone can do this with any photo to see if there is metadata information available. I used a site called Jeffery’s Exif Viewer ) and uploaded a random photo I took of a model home my wife and I were looking at a couple years ago.
 

A geotagged photo and map location

You can see it is a harmless photo of a closet, but embedded in the image was the exact location of where this model house was. Imagine if this was your own house being tagged and you were broadcasting where you lived. Now imagine you are posting pictures online of the trip you are on, basically telling everyone that you are not home right now and giving everyone your home address?
 

The same thing goes with pictures of your kids. If your social media profiles are public, anyone can find pictures of your children, check for geo-tagging and repost the photos on a website along with their location, if it is part of EXIF data. As a parent, that is frightening.
 

The first step is to turn off geo-tagging within your device so even if your photos get out there, there isn’t location information included in the first place. So what else can be done? I would encourage everyone to do is to make your social media profiles private so random people searching the internet won’t be able to access photos and other information you post, however others that may not have their profiles set to private may share or repost those photos thus negating your own privacy settings.
 

How Do You Turn Off Geotagging?

 

Each OS has their own way of turning off the geo-location tagging of your photos.
 

iOS

Go to Settings
Select Privacy
Select Location Services
Toggle camera to OFF
 

Android 4.2 Photos

Start the camera application
Choose Settings
Scroll down and find the GPS Tag option and turn it off
 

BlackBerry 6.0 and 7.0

RIM suggests through the online documentation that disabling geotagging be done on BlackBerry Enterprise Server,  which would work from an admin’s point of view if an agency uses BES. If not, to turn the setting off on an individual BlackBerry  phone:

Open Camera
Set the Location icon to “Disabled”
 

NOTE: For some earlier versions, hit the Menu and Option buttons before changing the setting.
 

Windows Phone 7 and 8

Go to Settings
Navigate to Applications
Scroll down to Pictures & Camera
Set “Include location (GPS) in in Pictures You Take” to OFF
 

Your location information is helpful but it might turn hazardous if it gets in the wrong hands. File this under better safe than sorry.
 

For more information, watch this recent news story: