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New Privacy Risk With Smartphone Photos

Last Updated: April 27, 2015

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by Kari Glemaker

Even goofy photos of your kids may contain location information.Multi-function capabilities are among the best features of smartphones. Instead of taking a digital camera, video recorder, laptop computer, and MP3 player on vacation, I just pack my smartphone and have all the same functions covered. In fact, some cell phones have cameras with more mega pixels than my current digital camera. And unlike my digital camera, a picture taken on my cell phone can even be directly e-mailed or uploaded to my various social networks.

This seems great…but did you know those photos can give details about their exact location?

Geo-tagging is when the camera on a device like an iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android Smartphone, which already has GPS locator technology, adds the geolocation to pictures at the time they are taken.  Any photo or video taken on one of these devices and uploaded to the web by you or a friend can reveal:

  • Where you live
  • Who else lives there
  • Where you work
  • Places you visit
  • Daycare and schools your children attend
  • Your commuting patterns
  • When you aren’t at home
  • And so much more!

Geo-tagging makes it possible for others to know where you or your children are and analyze your movements whenever you click “send.”

Locator-based services are necessary for using map or navigation applications. However, this detailed location information does not need to be made public via photos and videos, and the functionality can be disabled.

  • Under the camera function on the cell phone—select “Options” or “Store Location,” and set geo-tagging to “disable” or “off.”
  • On the iPhone, under “General Settings,” select “Location Services.” You can individually select the applications to have the services “on” (like Maps or Navigator) or “off” (like Camera or Facebook)
  • I Can Stalk U gives a complete step-by-step method to disable geo-tagging on various types of smartphones.

Remember, technology in and of itself is not evil—it is neutral. Parents need to be aware of all the tools, applications and functions available to keep ourselves and our children safe.