The internet loves photos. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat – need we go on? People love to upload their selfies, photos of their kids, their cats (especially cats), their lunch, their rooms, etc. In and of itself, there’s no harm in it. We’re a visual culture and we seem to like stalking everyone’s photos. Plus, have I mentioned the cute cat photos?
The problem is if you don’t upload photos responsibly, you could have stalkers for real. For instance, people can literally take a geotag off of Twitter, throw it into the TrackinU app and have a map straight to wherever you are.
In your privacy settings on your phone, you will probably notice a “Location” tab. If you click on that tab, it will pull up all of your apps and specify whether or not that app has access to your current location.
If you camera has access to your location, the coordinates of where you were standing are embedded into any picture you take and travel with the photo as it’s uploaded to the internet. So say, you take a photo in your bedroom–a bad guy now literally knows where you sleep. Say you take a picture of your kids in their classroom – now a criminal knows the exact room in which your kids are learning. Upload a photo on vacation? Thieves now know exactly how far from home you really are.
You can see how this would be a problem, right? It’s creepy.
Your home could be robbed; your kids could be kidnapped. Think we’re over exaggerating?
But all is not lost. You can still upload and share all the great moments you want to share. Just do one simple thing–turn that location setting OFF. Turn it off for your camera, Facebook*, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, any app connected to the internet. Those apps DO NOT need to know where you are.
When it comes to the internet, often times, less is more. Be covert. Don’t compromise your location. In most situations, giving away the least amount of information about yourself and your location is the best idea.
Having said all this, we would like to point out one awesome way in which geotagged tweets could potentially help prevent crimes. By using crime pattern prediction techniques combined with geotagged tweets to find criminal hotspots, a University of Virginia team is doing an experiment that could help police departments everywhere stop crimes before they happen! Sound a little too Minority Report for you? Get all the facts here!
[*Sidenote regarding Facebook. When you upload a photo to Facebook, the metadata is erased so even if someone downloads one of your photos from Facebook, they won’t have access to the geotagging location. Some other social media sites also remove metadata, which has some photographers up in arms, but the social networks are doing so, partly, as a safety concern. Many people are still very upset about Facebook and Twitter stripping the embedded data so who knows if this practice will change in the future? To be on the safe side, turn off your location!]