Stop GPS Data Recorded in Photos From Revealing Where You Live

According to the New York Times, when Adam Savage, host of the popular science program “MythBusters,” posted a picture on Twitter of his car parked in front of his house, he let his fans know much more than that he drove a Toyota Land Cruiser.  Embedded in the image was a geotag, a bit of GPS[1] data providing the longitude and latitude of where the photo was taken. Hence, he revealed exactly where he lived. And since the accompanying text was “Now it’s off to work,” potential thieves knew he would not be at home.

Geotagging is when a device such as an iPhone, Android smartphone or digital camera stores your location or geographical information, such as your GPS[2] coordinates, within a photo or movie file (such as .jpg or .mov files). According to Wikipedia, a geotagged photograph is a photograph which is associated with a geographical location by geotagging.  Geotags are useful in helping people find a wide variety of location-specific information. For example, one can find images taken near a given location by entering latitude and longitude coordinates into a suitable image search engine.[3]

The tricky thing about geo-tags is that they are invisible to the naked eye.   Geo-tags are part of the meta-data, or underlying data about the data, that accompanies each file. The problem occurs when you or someone you may know are geo-tagging your photos and then uploading them to the internet – especially social media sites like Twitter.  When social media users take a picture or video and upload it to their page, they are probably transmitting far more data than they think.

Browser plug-ins and certain software programs can reveal the geotag location information of your photos and movies to anyone who wants to see it. Location information (GPS[4] coordinates) stored inside photos can reveal your home address, work address, places you visit often, etc.  Geotags can make it very easy for people – friends, family, bosses, spouses, parents – to know exactly where you are.

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