NBC recently aired a segment in which computer security experts warned parents about the dangers of posting pictures of their children online when those pictures had location data embedded. Anytime you posted a picture online from your smartphone or other GPS-enabled device, they told you, you endangered your child because the photo could tell online predators where exactly your child was at any given time. When a predator has access to multiple pictures of a child, he may easily build a list of locations that the child frequents and know where to go to get to the child. A police officer in the video calls photo location data the number one threat to children today.
Where is this dangerous data, anyway?
All digital photo files are created with room for metadata — descriptive information, stored in a format called EXIF. Not only does metadata help you keep track of the date, time, camera brand, flash use, focal length and shutter speed, you get to see GPS geo-tagging information, too. If you are on Flickr and would like to filter your results for a particular location, the EXIF data on those photos can be very handy. For professional photographers with large collections of photos to organize, such data can be especially useful. It can be handy to stalkers, too.
What can you do about it?
Not every camera does geo-tagging (the adding of GPS-based location information). Only a few point-and-shoot models do. Smartphones and tablets, though, almost always have geo-tagging turned on by default. Apple devices, for instance, ship with the geo-tagging enabled. Android devices ship with different default settings depending on the model.
If yours is an Apple device and you would like to turn off geo-tagging for photos, you simply need to find your way to Location Services under Settings and then Privacy and then turn off the toggle switch for Camera.
On Android devices, you’ll need to find your way to the geo-tagging setting, wherever your specific camera app may have it. The exact way you achieve this depends on the specific version of Android you have, the app you are using and the modifications to the operating system that the manufacturer may have made.
For the photos that you’ve already taken…
Your photos don’t have to give you away even if they do have geo-tagging information embedded. Before you share them on the Internet, you can always go in and erase any personal information that they may contain. All you need to do is to right-click on the photo, select Properties , click on the Details tab and then hit the Remove Properties and Personal Information button at the bottom of the dialog box.