Permanent Tourist

The personal website of Mark Howells-Mead

Keeping your location private when sharing mobile phone photos

The news story in this video highlights technical points which seem obvious to most mobile phone users, but which less tech-savvy people may easily overlook. If you take photos when location services are active on your phone, the photos contain details of where and when the photo was taken.

Share the photo on Facebook, Twitter or most other online photo sharing services and the location will be visible by default: combine that with facial recognition technology which is fast becoming ubiquitous, and it’s not difficult to find out where people are, which places they regularly visit, and so on. Perhaps you don’t care whether people know where you are, but don’t forget the privacy issues when sharing photos of friends and family members.

Once again, a simple reminder: make sure you know what options are set on your photo sharing and social media services, if privacy is of any kind of concern. Most services will share as much information about you publicly unless you choose otherwise.

Update: for further clarification, this technology isn’t a “new threat”: technology has worked in this way for many years. The first GPS-enabled digital cameras were released by Nikon in 2002 and mobile phones equipped with cameras have featured automatic geotagging for about 6-7 years. It’s only since the adoption of photo sharing services and social media tools by the general public – who are often less informed and less cautious about sharing their information online – that the issue has become so wide-spread.

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