where-in-the-worldOnline photos, and how they’re betraying you

Location, location, location

A picture is worth a thousand words, but what do your snaps really say?   It may be something you didn’t intend.  For example, did you know that your phone might be telling the whole world exactly where you are and when?  That means that whoever accesses your GPS-enabled photo can take a quick look at the file properties, pull up any map, and discover your most frequent locales:


Cool, huh?  Not.  If your BFFs can track you, then so can your frienemies and worse.  Face it, this is one piece of you that the world can live without.

Why is this happening to me?

What’s causing this?  Your device, of course.  You’ve got either a GPS enabled camera or a camera phone.  Along with the time and date of your photo, it does you the “favor” of automatically logging your GPS location.  Great if you’re geocaching.  Not great for everyone else.

Newsflash:  The problem is yours, not the camera’s.  Your phone may be doing it, but you can and should change it.  Luckily, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to make it stop.

Fix it

Unintended geo-tagging is that it’s completely fixable, but sadly, many people just ignore it.  Don’t be one of them. Take control.

Somewhere on your device is a GPS location services app similar to the one on the iPhone 4 (Settings > General > Location Services).

Once you access it, you should see a list of apps, and their location service settings.  Under them will be a “Camera” app.  If GPS is set to “ON,” for the camera, turn it “OFF”.

What about my other photos?

So you’re just now learning about this, but you have a fistful of other pics that were (oops) taken with GPS on, and now you want to post or repost them.  First, check them out.  Download them onto your computer, then look at their properties (right click à properties à details).  What do you see?  If you can see it, everyone can.  Is this what you want to share?

If not, the best thing to do would be to run pics through an app that strips out all of that extra stuff, called “metadata,” and leaves the photo virtually information-free. Try Photoshop Express on your smart phone.  It has cool editing features, too.  Or, for your desktop computer, try something similar to Steel Bytes free JPEG and PNG Stripper at http://www.steelbytes.com/.

Strip your snaps clean, THEN share away.  You’ll thank yourself later.