The Problem with GPS on Phones & Cameras

Most parents are very careful about what they post online. They know that publicising important details like addresses could put their family at risk. What they don’t know, however, is that posting digital photos on social media does just that.

Digital cameras and phone cameras have a geolocation feature built into them. When a photo is snapped, the device uses global positioning system technology (GPS) to embed data into the picture about the location of the shot. This is useful after your holidays if you forget remember the name of a town where a picture was taken. You can take simple steps to “open” the photo and find the coordinates, which can be pinpointed on a map.

Geotagging is handy for photographers and vacationers. For the rest of us, it poses some privacy problems. Let’s say your daughter in grade three loses her first tooth. You take a cute photo at home and upload it to your favourite social media site. Anyone who sees that photo can easily unpack the data to reveal the location where the photo was taken, namely your street address. Like it or not, you’ve posted your location online and, if your profile’s privacy settings are set for public viewing, anyone could track you–or her–down.

Check out this clip from ABC7 in New York that shows the ramifications of geotagging on cameras and phones.

youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmJIhYSsvpc?rel=0&w=640&h=360

To maximise your family’s privacy and safety, consider disabling the geolocation function in your camera and phone’s settings and enable it only when you need it.

9 Comments

  1. Paul Willis

    Great tip Alison about geotagging. I tell my students at uni to be vey careful about revealing this sort of hidden information behind photos and videos. Do you know if I devices automatically ask still if you want the location used or is it automatic with the upgraded systems?

    1. Alison

      Hi Paul, thanks for taking time to comment. In my experience, even with location services disabled, some apps still ask if I want to activate geotagging. Apps seem to ask when you use them for the first time, and I generally say “no.” I wonder though if people don’t understand the implications if they would shrug and just allow geotagging. I seem to remember the default setting on the iPad’s location services is “enabled,” and unfortunately I can’t remember if it asked when we upgraded from iOS4 to 5. If anyone knows for sure, please feel free to comment. I hope I’ve addressed your question.
      Alison

  2. Paul Willis

    Great tip Alison about geotagging. I tell my students at uni to be vey careful about revealing this sort of hidden information behind photos and videos. Do you know if I devices automatically ask still if you want the location used or is it automatic with the upgraded systems?

    1. Alison

      Hi Paul, thanks for taking time to comment. In my experience, even with location services disabled, some apps still ask if I want to activate geotagging. Apps seem to ask when you use them for the first time, and I generally say “no.” I wonder though if people don’t understand the implications if they would shrug and just allow geotagging. I seem to remember the default setting on the iPad’s location services is “enabled,” and unfortunately I can’t remember if it asked when we upgraded from iOS4 to 5. If anyone knows for sure, please feel free to comment. I hope I’ve addressed your question.
      Alison

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