Every day, people take pictures on their smartphones and immediately post them to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. But they may not realize the images are geotagged to include location.
"The information is great for recording the location in which the photo was taken, which can then be used to sort photographs later – that's how I and most people use it and that's what it was originally designed for," Larry Pesce, senior security consultant with NWN Corporation in Waltham, Mass., recently told Digital Trends. "However, there are a few security issues, mostly related in how the stored location information is used. I think the majority of people have no idea that the location of their images is being tagged. The big issue here is being aware of what exactly you are posting."
A 2010 news story on geotagging has gained renewed popularity in light of the NSA leaks. Kansas City NBC affiliate KSHB reported that people can use add-on data included in posted pictures to determine the exact location of the photographer. In one example, a mother took a picture of her daughter in their home, and the news source was able to find the location of that home along with the daycare, a restaurant and park the child visits based on picture information.
Yet, for the most part, this troubling information regarding mobile data security was ignored, the International Business Times recently reported. The recently revealed information of how the government is using cellphone data to track Americans has brought new attention to the issue of geotagging. The KSHB report from nearly three years ago became one of the top trending online videos this week.
Turning Off Location Data
The video showed viewers how to turn off this geotagging feature on their iPhone, which would enable users to continue to take pictures and post them online - just not reveal their exact location by doing so. Turning off the general "Location settings" button, will actually deactivate any map tool on your phone, KSHB reported. However, if you specifically turn the "camera" setting to off under "Location settings," this will disable the GPS feature for the pictures you take, meaning the location won't be posted online where it could end up in the wrong hands.
Those with a Windows 8 phone will find that their device automatically attaches the exact longitude and latitude of the place a picture was taken, Gotta Be Mobile reported. To avoid people using this information for the wrong reason - say, for a criminal to determine where you live - a user should go to the photos and camera settings on their phone and make sure the "Include location info in pictures I take" option is not checked. This will prevent location data from being reported in pictures you take on your phone. Other phones should have similar options under their settings.
Matt Cullina is chief executive officer of IDentity Theft 911.