Have you ever taken a picture with your smartphone or a digital camera and emailed it or posted it online? All digital pictures contain information, called metadata, such as the size of the file, the type of camera used to take the picture, image resolution, and, if available, GPS coordinates.
Including GPS data, also referred to as geotagging, is particularly concerning. There has been an explosion in the number of devices (iPhones, Androids, Blackberries, etc.) that include GPS locator technologies. What if you or a friend takes a picture with one of these smartphones and posts it online? Could someone else download the picture and look at this metadata to see where the picture was taken?
Today, the short answer is yes. If I take a photo with my iPhone or Android phone, the picture is automatically tagged with GPS information. When I email, text, tweet or upload that photo to a website, the metadata, including GPS information, is uploaded with it. Some sites/clients will remove the metadata on pictures. Facebook strips the metadata, including any geotagging information. Twitter clients can be configured to do the same, but it is very much dependent upon the client you use. Other services like Flickr or Picasa have different ways of handling location information in the metadata.
A geotagged picture posted online, together with information gleaned from social media, could be used to figure out where you live, work or shop. Check out this video on how the location information could be leaked (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2vARzvWxwY).
You should be in control of your online identity and determine if you want others to know this type of information about you. To learn more about geotagging and how to disable it on your mobile device, visit the excellent blog post at icanstalku.com for more information (http://icanstalku.com/how.php).