Sunday, 10 February 2013

Geo-tagged photos - the dangers

o you take pictures of your children with your mobile phone and load them up onto your Facebook account or some other online account where everyone can see them?

You might like to think again about that until you’ve found out all about geo-tagging.
Ever heard of geo-tagging? 

It’s a device most smart phones with GPS come with and it’s worth checking out whether yours is on or off. The reason is this: if you haven’t turned it off it is possible for someone who views the photo to get the longitude and latitude of where you were when you took the picture.

That photo could tell anyone, should they choose to look for it, the time and date the picture was taken, too, and its location data can have an accuracy of within one metre.

I only found out about geo-tagging by chance because a friend went to a security briefing given by the police at her son’s senior school.

There are stories that geo-tagging has led to stalking, domestic violence and kidnapping. There is so much that is good about the age of technology we live in now, but this is pretty scary to me.

You might reason that it’s only ‘friends’ who will see your online pictures but it’s amazing how people you have very thin links with can become designated a ‘friend’ online.

Or what if you are a member of the armed forces and posted a picture of yourself on Facebook? Only last year BBC News posted a story about the US Army warning that US soldiers were putting their lives at risk and those of their colleagues by posting photos on Facebook that could give away their location.

They had every reason to be worried because in 2007 they said that four US Army helicopters were destroyed in Iraq after geo-tagged pictures of them were displayed on the internet.

Happily, the report says the British Army bans all soldiers from using mobile phones in places like Afghanistan and advises them not to take pictures on their mobile phones.

So when you post a picture of your family online ask yourself whether it’s really important for anyone to know where they were at the time.

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