The rise in precision of geo-location features on smartphones and mobile devices can have enormous advantages for you as a consumer – as well as extremely dangerous consequences. So, just how does your smartphone know where in the world you are? When location services are enabled on devices, the precise physical location of your phone (and you, assuming you are chained to it…) can be pinpointed via latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates down to a matter of feet.
As a user, this can be great for you if you are dying for a Starbucks in the middle of Manhattan, lost in a new city trying to get to a job interview, or wondering why in the world your kid isn’t home at curfew. And, as a business, you can take advantage of geo-location with geo-targeting – knowing your customers’ locations and serving them selected offers based on their proximity to your business.
However, there is a darker side. When GPS or geo-location is enabled on your devices, it may embed the exact location you were when you took photos with your smartphone or mobile device.
You have all of this fantastic technology at your fingertips and everywhere you see great opportunities to capture a lifetime of memories: family fun times, vacations, work events, or just documenting what you had for breakfast! We all do it. We take a quick snapshot, upload it to one of our favorite social networks, and voilà! In a matter of seconds, our lives are on display for thousands of people to enjoy and comment on. Or, do something far more sinister…
Do you realize that any time you take a picture with a mobile device that has GPS or geo-location enabled, your photo provides a roadmap to tell strangers where and when that photo was taken? And where you were NOT.
There’s myriad software and websites available today that allow you to take a photo you have downloaded from the Internet and run it through a program to determine hidden details. These programs provide you the exact location, time and from what device the photo was taken.
This hidden information is called “metadata” and virtually all smart devices records this data. In fact, metadata can also be used on your desktop and laptop computers if geo-location is enabled, such as when you are editing photos in Photoshop.
Have you ever noticed when you’re posting on Facebook, how the program suggests a location for the post or photo? Or, do you wonder how the ads you see in your timeline seem to be so well targeted to your physical location? Now, that is geo-location and geo-targeting hard at work.
But think about this, if you are taking pictures of your house, you are a public figure, or you simply don’t want to give away where you live, you might want to consider turning off GPS or geo-location prior to taking a picture or posting online. And, ask your friends and family to do the same when visiting your home. Proud of that one-of-a-kind heirloom, new TV, entertainment system or sports car? Celebrating your baby’s homecoming, first new tooth or other milestone? That’s great, but keep it to yourself. With geo-location on, now you’ve opened the door to these prized possessions with every tech-savvy criminal in town.
One great resource to find out more about geo-location info and how it works on your photos can be found here Digital Photo Secrets. Even though this site uses the example of photos taken from a digital camera with GPS enabled, don’t forget, geo-location works from any GPS-enabled or mobile device.
Another sight you may want to experiment with is Geo Imager. Just upload any photo and the site will place your photo in the geo-location it was taken if the metadata is available. And to check out your image for its GPS information and to plot it on a map, visit: How To Geek
Keep making and capturing those great memories, just make sure you’re taking the time to consider how you want to share them with the world on your personal blog, social networks or just via email to friends and family. Be aware that images can carry with them a significant amount of hidden metadata, and you have the power to turn that feature off by disabling GPS or geo-location on your mobile device or camera app.
With technology advancing by the second, these extra steps will help ensure your anonymity and safety. On the flip side, it’s can be a hoot to take pictures – and using Apple’s iPhoto – see your images plotted on a map throughout the country or the world.
I truly enjoy writing this weekly feature for SRQ Daily and appreciate the great feedback I received from every reader. Curious about a subject I haven’t addressed? Have a great idea for a future Tech Tip column? Please send in your suggestions, I would love to hear from you.
Again thank you very much for your continued support and have a great week.