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Geotagging - Is your child safe?
Nowadays everyone knows what you’re up to and where you are – depending of course on whether or not you have checked in (or out) of a certain location, or if you have your ‘Location Services’ turned on or not.
Geotagging might seem like a foreign concept to most of us, but it has in actual fact been around for quite some time. It was only at the beginning of this year, that I noticed that you can “check in” on Facebook and let your friends know exactly where you are.
But for those of you still lost in translation, let’s look at Wikipedia’s description of geotagging. It’s “…the process of adding geographical identification metadata to various media such as photographs, video, websites, SMS messages, or RSS feeds and is a form of geospatial metadata. These data usually consist of latitude and longitude coordinates, though they can also include altitude, bearing, distance, accuracy data, and place names. It is commonly used for photographs”.
In short this means that when you take a picture or video, the software along with the GPS program in your phone places a marker on your picture, with the exact location, time and date. Sometimes it even has a map attached to it already and can give the exact location to anyone who knows how to use it. If and when you check in, using for example Facebook or Four Square, you are also giving away your location, and the date and time you were there. Depending on your photo uploads or check-ins, others can get a sense of where you frequent and when.
Geotagging was originally designed to help people find large amounts of location specific information, allowing them to not only find the place they were looking for, but also see the surrounding areas. Now however, when you post a picture on Facebook, even if your settings are set to private, in most cases your pictures will come up on a Google Image search, with the geotags embedded in those pictures.
There are two major problems with this. One being that through Facebook and Twitter, people can get to know your habits. And secondly, with geotagging, combined with Flickr and Google Street View, they are given your exact location when doing it.
The real danger, especially keeping our children in mind, is that we may not even realise when we could be compromising our privacy, as well as our safety. Potentially, private information such as where you live, do your shopping, where your kids go to school etc. is all made available and unfortunately, could land in the wrong hands.
GPS-equipped smartphones and digital cameras have this capability to embed tags into photos and videos, without asking for permission. By downloading free browser plug-ins like the Exif Viewer for Firefox or Opanda IExif for Internet Explorer, anyone can pinpoint the location where the photo was taken and create a Google map thereof. “Anyone” can be a thief to a cyber stalker, paedophile or even a murderer.
Make sure you know how this feature works and consider these tips when posting pictures and videos:
- Consider turning off geotagging on your camera and cell phone. Keep in mind that this can sometimes turn off all GPS capabilities, including mapping. The website ICanStalkU.com provides step-by-step instructions for disabling the photo geotagging function on iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Palm devices.
- Talk to your children and friends about this and raise awareness. Make them aware of the dangers that surround geotagging and assist them in the process of uploading photos.
- If you as a family consider the geotagging feature as an advantage, rather make a house rule about not uploading any media onto the internet without stripping the metadata off the photo first. Make very sure your children know exactly what they are doing before considering this.
- Don’t be scared online, but don’t be blasé either. Be aware of dangers and take note of how interaction takes place. Also, keep your children accountable for their online activity.
- Spread the word on what geotagging and how you can disable it.