Did you know that GPS location data can be recorded when someone takes a picture of you?
According to the New York Times, when Adam Savage, host of the popular science program “MythBusters,” posted a picture on Twitter of his car parked in front of his house, he let his fans know much more than that he drove a Toyota Land Cruiser. Embedded in the image was a geotag, a bit of GPS data providing the longitude and latitude of where the photo was taken. Hence, he revealed exactly where he lived. And since the accompanying text was “Now it’s off to work,” potential thieves knew he would not be at home.
Geotagging is when a device such as an iPhone, Android smartphone or digital camera stores your location or geographical information, such as your GPS coordinates, within a photo or movie file (such as .jpg or .mov files). According to Wikipedia, a geotagged photograph is a photograph which is associated with a geographical location by geotagging. Geotags are useful in helping people find a wide variety of location-specific information. For example, one can find images taken near a given location by entering latitude and longitude coordinates into a suitable image search engine.
The tricky thing about geo-tags is that they are invisible to the naked eye. Geo-tags are part of the meta-data, or underlying data about the data, that accompanies each file. The problem occurs when you or someone you may know are geo-tagging your photos and then uploading them to the internet – especially social media sites like Twitter. When social media users take a picture or video and upload it to their page, they are probably transmitting far more data than they think.
Browser plug-ins and certain software programs can reveal the geotag location information of your photos and movies to anyone who wants to see it. Location information (GPS coordinates) stored inside photos can reveal your home address, work address, places you visit often, etc. Geotags can make it very easy for people – friends, family, bosses, spouses, parents – to know exactly where you are.
How to Protect Your Privacy and Disable Geotagging
iPhone – Go to Settings, General, Location Services. Here you can set which applications can access your GPS coordinates, or disable the feature entirely. If you use your GPS tracking your children’s whereabouts or to find local restaurants and services on the go – then don’t disable the features entirely.
BlackBerry – Click the camera icon, press the Menu button and choose “Options”. Set the “Geotagging” setting to “Disabled”. Save the updated settings.
Android – Open the Camera application, select “Store Location” and set it to “Off”.
Facebook – removes geotags from uploaded photos, however other social networking sites do not. Look into your privacy settings and turn off location sharing.
Your Digital Camera and Mobile Phone – Make sure to turn off the location sharing settings in your camera and mobile phone. Be extra careful if you are uploading photos to a website where strangers will see them — such as Craigslist or Ebay.
Read further, here: NY Times.