For those of us who consider privacy a safety issue, Facebook is not the only technology you need to be concerned with. You may be unknowingly giving up much more information than you realize right from your own cell phone. Modern cellphones come standard with GPS software that allows us to find our way to just about anywhere. But what you may not know is that other applications on your cellphone may also be using your GPS location. Your cellphone may be giving away vital location information such as your home address through a process called geotagging. Geotagging is the process of storing geographic locations in cellphone pictures in the form of latitude and longitude.
How can geotagging be a privacy issue?
Let’s assume you have taken a picture with your cellphone of your dog in your backyard. Now, let’s assume you shared your image of Fido’s frolic on Facebook, Twitpic or some other social network. Anyone with access to the Internet can extract the geographic location data from your picture and use Google Maps to discover your home address. Now, let’s suppose you post a status saying that you have left for work. You now have one or more individuals with the knowledge of your home address who know you are not at home. You may come home from work later to find that you have been robbed, or worse. If you’d like to see how easy it is for someone to do this, check out I Can Stalk U.
What can you do to protect yourself from geotagging dangers?
What can you do to protect yourself from broadcasting your own unintended robbery invite? Well, you can disable the geotagging function with the methods listed below.
If you own an iPhone, you can disable geotagging using the following steps. In iOS4, geotagging photos can be turned off pretty easily. You can protect yourself by selecting General in the Settings Menu, then selecting Location Services and setting the switch to OFF for the Camera.
In iOS3 or older, it is a bit more difficult. You can easily disable the location service for the entire device, but if you plan to use your navigation application or Google Maps, this is not the best way to go. Instead, it is best to reset all location warnings to the default. The default is for each app to ask for permission to use the location software on first use. Afterward, you can tell each app whether it can use locations or not. To do this, select General in the Settings Menu, then select Reset. From here, select Reset Location Warnings, and then select Reset Warnings. Now you can start the Camera app on your iPhone and select Don’t Allow when prompted for location use.
If you have an Android phone, disabling geotagging in your photos is fairly simple. Just start your camera application and slide open the menu. Now, select Settings and check to see that the Geo-Tag Photos option is set to OFF. If not, set it to OFF.
If you are a Blackberry user, it is similarly simple to turn off geotagging and protect yourself. Simply start your camera application from the home screen, press the Menu button, then select Options. Scroll to the geotagging setting and set it to Disabled.
Safeguarding your privacy is important
Turning off geotagging on your cellphone is a smart thing to do. Unless you have a specific need for having geographic location data in your pictures, like say, you are a travel writer, it can save you a lot of trouble.
Don’t forget to check your spouse’s and your teenager’s cellphones as well.