Smartphone Pictures Pose Privacy Risks?

1
As posted on Facebook, Jan. 22, 2013:

Smartphone Pictures Pose Privacy Risks
Netlore Archive: Viral warnings say photos taken with smartphones pose a privacy and safety risk, particularly for children, because geographical location (geotagging) information may be embedded in the images..

Description: Viral video / Text
Circulating since: Jan. 2013
Status: True (see details below)

Text example:
As posted on Facebook, Jan. 22, 2013:

Warning if you take photos with your cell phone of your kids, grand kids, elderly family members -- WATCH THIS!

This is truly alarming - please take the time to watch this video, AND TAKE THE RECOMMENDED PRECAUTIONS. At the end they'll tell you how to set your phone so you don't run this risk!

PLEASE PASS THIS INFO TO ANYONE YOU KNOW WHO TAKES PICTURES WITH THEIR CELL OR SMART PHONE AND POSTS THEM ONLINE. Be sure to share with all your family and friends. This is important info, about what your posting pictures/info on your cell phones can do TO YOU!!! Too much technology out there these days so beware...........

I had no idea this could happen from taking pictures on the blackberry or cell phone. It's scary.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2vARzvWxwY
Smartphone pictures pose privacy risks
www.youtube.com
Pictures you've e-mailed or uploaded from your smartphone could leak information that can threaten your safety or that of your children.


Analysis: There's nothing particularly new in this warning — in fact, the news video cited in the post aired in 2010 — and it's a bit overblown, but the info is accurate enough to be worth heeding.

Most smartphone users are probably aware that their devices use GPS location services to power maps, driving directions, phone locators, and other handy apps, but not everyone is aware that the same technology may pose a risk to their safety and privacy by recording precise geographical information in the photos they take (the feature is called "geotagging"). The risk arises when the photos are shared.

When you publicly share a geotagged photo via the Web or social media, the embedded data may, depending on the platform, be accessible to anyone with the proper software to extract it (some services, e.g. Facebook and Twitter, automatically delete location data from uploaded images; others don't). The software is easy to use, readily available, and in many instances free of charge. It's a simple matter to take the geographical coordinates of the location where the photo was shot — your own backyard, for example — convert them into map form, and voila: a total stranger knows your exact address.

Fortunately, it's also a simple matter — and advisable if you plan on sharing your photos publicly — to disable the geotagging feature in your smartphone camera. See the resources below for specific instructions applicable to the most common devices.

(Note: Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Google+ doesn't automatically remove location data from uploaded photos, but does offer users the option of hiding it. Instagram also makes displaying geotagged images, or not, optional.)

More privacy rumors:
Facebook's 'Graph App' and Privacy
Can People Look Up My Driver's License on the Internet?
Don't Bother Posting that Facebook 'Privacy Notice'
Cell Phone Numbers Going Public? No.
Facebook 'Copyright Notice' Is a Hoax



Resources:

Web Photos that Reveal Secrets, Like Where You Live
New York Times, 11 August 2010

Online Cell Phone Photos Pose Risk to Kids' Safety
MSN.com, 13 August 2013

Why Stalkers Love Your Geotags
About.com: Internet/Network Security

How to Remove Geotags from Pictures Taken with Your iPhone
About.com: Internet/Network Security

How to Disable Geotagging on Your iPhone, Android Phone or Blackberry
Yahoo Voices, 24 January 2011


Last updated 08/14/13