Your Photos Can Your Reveal Secrets

You can easily find out where people live, what kind of things they have in their house and also when they are going to be away.

Security experts and privacy advocates have recently begun warning about the potential dangers of geotags, which are embedded in photos and videos taken with GPS-equipped smartphones and digital cameras. Because the location data is not visible to the casual viewer, the concern is that many people may not realize it is there; and they could be compromising their privacy, if not their safety, when they post geotagged media online.

Very few people know about geotag capabilities and the only way you can turn off the function on your smartphone is through an invisible menu that no one really knows about.

Indeed, disabling the geotag function generally involves going through several layers of menus until you find the “location” setting, then selecting “off” or “don’t allow.” But doing this can sometimes turn off all GPS capabilities, including mapping, so it can get complicated.

Because of the way photographs are formatted by some sites like Facebook, geotag information is not always retained when an image is uploaded, which provides some protection, albeit incidental. Other sites like Flickr have recently taken steps to block access to geotag data on images taken with smartphones unless a user explicitly allows it.

But experts say the problem goes far beyond social networking and photo sharing Web sites, regardless of whether they offer user privacy settings.

You need to educate yourself and your friends but in the end, you really have no control, protecting your privacy is not just a matter of being aware and personally responsible. A friend may take a geotagged photo at your house and post it.

ICanStalkU.com provides step-by-step instructions for disabling the photo geotagging function on iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Palm devices.

adapted via nytimes.com

  • 08/18/2010
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