An online picture is worth revealing your home address even if the image is a close-up of your preschooler's curls.
Data that's embedded in the pictures can reveal the home location, thanks to traces left by the imaging devices. This data is called exchangeable image file format (EXIF), and may contain GPS coordinates of where the image was shot.
EXIF has a geotagging component. Google's and Apple's smartphone systems ask users for permission to access their whereabouts in order to provide more services. If you click "okay," every picture you take is tagged with the GPS coordinates that reveal not only the location where the photo was taken, but the time and date as well.
This information can clue the wrong person that you're out of town-and many burglars scour for information like this. Imagine the repercussions: Photos of your children's favorite hangout locations can reveal just where they hang out, literally. Private information in the wrong hands can be disastrous.
This information's sticks with the photo when it's uploaded to sites like Flickr and Photobucket, though Facebook strips the EXIF data.
So for example, a Photobucket picture displays location data on the image's page, which can be input into Google Maps to show a satellite image of the photo's location.
A spokesperson for Photobucket says they added EXIF data at the request of users and have had no complaints about the GPS tagging feature. The coordinates can be disabled via the user's settings-which is useless if the user has no idea about this feature in the first place.
Furthermore, if the original file is downloaded using a Photobucket link, the location can be viewed in Adobe Photoshop and other software.
How to Prevent Geotagging
- For Android, go to Settings, Location Services, turn the location services off.
- For iPhone, go to Settings, Privacy, Location Services, turn the location services off.
- Turn the location services off for social media applications.
- For Windows Phone, go to Settings, tap Location, turn off location services.
- Apps exist like Pixelgarde that wipe geotags from existing online photos.
- For computers, Windows can strip the EXIF; right click the image and hit Properties, then in the "details" tab, click Remove Properties and Personal Information.
- For Macs, use XnView, though this bulk-stripper also works for Windows.