Turning off GeoTagging for you phone photos to protect your privacy!

Recently there has been a video doing the rounds from YouTube on how smartphone pictures can be a privacy risk. It’s no joke. Most smart phones, have GeoTagging turned on by default for photos that you take with the phone’s camera. What this does is embed geographic location information such as the longitude and latitude of where the picture was taken into the picture itself.

When these pictures are posted on the Internet on sites such as Facebook, Flickr, photobucket, etc. the geolocation information can be extracted from the pictures to find out exactly where it was taken. Some people are fine with this, but consider the consequences. What if you have taken pictures of your children playing at the park, that you visit frequent. Or that they have taken pictures at your house, and their friends house plus the local mall, and their after school soccer practice.  If these are posted online, predators can search for photos of kids in the area, find out where they are exactly, discover common places they hang out and the paths they are likely taking to get there, and wait for them.

Do you really want predators to have that kind of information about your children?

For Windows Phone go to

Settings –> Applications –> Pictures & Camera

Make sure that “Keep location information on uploaded pictures” is Off. (should be off be default)

Now, if you download the pictures from your phone to your PC, the information will still be there. If you then upload them from your PC, Windows Phone can’t protect you from this. You might want to turn off geotagging completely to make sure you don’t accidentally upload pictures with gegraphic information in them.  To do that on Windows Phone:

Make sure that “Include location (GPS) information in pictures you take” is set to Off.

For other phone types I’m sure these settings are in a similar location.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Comments (5)

  1. Derek says:

    Aren't you a little paranoid?  Surely there is an easier way to prey on kids?  

    I agree that there is a privacy concern for geotagged photos, but using the scare tactic of "predators searching for your children" is ridiculous.

    Just read some posts here and realise just how ridiculous modern society has become.


  2. TheRockyH says:

    As a father of two young children, and someone who works with police and federal agencies in cases that involve child abduction and sexual abuse which originate from social media, NO I am not paranoid. There are several cases investigated each week and the Australian High Tech Crime Centre regularly tracks down and prosecutes criminals involved in what is called Grooming activities that originate online.

    When you combine this with more relatively mundane practices of cyber-bullying it creates a very real and threatening environment for children.

    I myself have seen the tools that these criminals use to aggregate photos, Facebook, twitter, and MySpace information to locate potential targets and their whereabouts on a given day and time.

    With all due respect, you have grossly underestimated the problem. After seeing how these things work, and the ease of which this happens through social networking, it bothers me a lot.  

    Sure, there are some overreactions and we shouldn’t keep kids in a bubble. They are not likely to be kidnapped under normal circumstances. But any reasonable person would see that this is a very simple thing we can do to help prevent, or at least not make it so easy, for cyber-predators (which is what they are called and classified as in law enforcement).  I raise 'free range kids' as the site you linked to calls them. I don't believe in coddling them or keeping them from riding to school or the park. But I also understand the realities of the world they live in. This is why I don't post schedules of our activities on the Internet. It's why I only post pictures after the fact, and with no geo-tagging information in them. I'm not going to stop my kids from going down to the park to play, but I'm not going to hang a target on their back either.

    For every one of your stories at the site above, there are one or more stories of child abduction that didn't turn out so well. It's an unacceptable scenario.

    Thank you for your comment though. It is good to get a different perspective on the whole thing.

  3. Brian says:

    I actually think it's a bit paranoid as well.  I don't know that most phones have Geotagging enabled by default, but even if they do, who will have access to the photos that are tagged?  If children are uploading their photos to a facebook account and have their account open to the world, their parents are doing a poor job of supervising them.  Uploading photos to the internet can be safe, secure, and private, if done properly.  Facebook accounts can easily be set so only friends can see the photos.  Additionally, Facebook "processes" photos, and the EXIF information is stripped in the process.  If you download a photo from Facebook today, you will find no geotag information within it.  Other photo sharing services may or may not have the same facility, but again, supervision and a little care are all that is required.  I am tired of news trying to scare people about technology, when in all practicality, there is little to fear.

    "Do you really want predators to have that kind of information about your children? ".  This is the kind of thing I am referring to.  The obvious answer is, "oh my goodness, no!".  But enabling geotagging alone is not going to expose one's children to dangerous sexual predators.

    If you are worried about strangers getting information (EXIF or otherwise), don't make the photos visible to strangers in the first place.

  4. TheRockyH says:

    I agree with your view on parents needing to show their children how to keep their profiles private. We talk about this quite a bit in the Think U Know ( http://www.thinkuknow.org.au/site ) presentations.  I also agree that sharing photos on the Internet can be done safely and securely, it's a great way to do it. The problem is, most people don't know how to do that. They don't understand what all of the aspects are until they read something like this or watch that video.

    The photos on Facebook aren't the problem. The photos on picasa, Flickr, photobucket, and the myriad of raw file sharing services are the problem. The information in Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter is aggregated to discover schedules, and other lifestyle information.  

    Your approach to making things safer is a good one, but over 80% (according to a survey by the UK government) of people using these kinds of services now don't know how to do this. So until the entire Internet populace is educated on how to properly secure profiles and share photos, a few scare tactics snap people to attention.

    I will admit to being hypocritical here because I hate sensationalist journalism.  But this at least got the message across. I'm just trying to put a dent in the over 600,000 child abductions worldwide. Sure, most of them didn't use this kind of method to find their victims, but why make it easy for them?

  5. Brian says:

    Certainly we don't want to make things easier for online predators.  Really, I think things like this need to be "automatic"; online services (and camera defaults) should err on the side of security–facebook should be visible to no one until one (uneducated user) purposely enables sharing, and geotagging should be OFF unless a user turns it on.  As you say, most people don't know how (or don't bother) to modify their security settings.

    Until then, I suppose a little sensationalism to grab peoples' attention is a lesser evil than accidentally shared information leading to a predator achieving his goal.  Perhaps an added, "this is a good time to talk about online security settings in general and communication with your children about how to keep themselves safe" bit would be helpful.

    Thank you for your reply, Mr. RockyHacker.

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