Saturday, January 25, 2014

Geotagging Privacy

Flickr keeps your geotagging data, but lets you hide it from the public.
I recently heard two parents of preteens commenting on privacy concerns when their kids posted photos to social media. They obviously were not aware that most smartphones embed EXIF metadata in photos. Most of this data is related to the photo and camera details such as the type of camera used, focal length, exposure time, f-stop, etc.

In addition to camera data, photos are sometimes geotagged with the coordinates where the photo is snapped. This geotagging feature can be turned on or off in the settings configuration depending on the user's settings. On iOS 7, it can be very handy for finding photos that you took months ago while on vacation since you can drill down into a map to find what you're looking for.

Obviously, geotagging can be a big concern for parents since some may not understand the implications of snapping a seemingly benign photo. Many social media websites automatically strip out this metadata. When tweeting a photo or posting it to Facebook, users have the explicit option to include their current location, regardless if a geotag is in the photo. The legal issue of geotagging is a bit more complex since it's very simple to change this data – just like changing a document filename or the name of a song in iTunes. Regardless, though, people, especially parents, need to be aware of it.

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