When I say danger, I am not exaggerating. If you are online and geotag your photos you risk being robbed, raped or murdered if you aren’t very careful. I do apologise, I don’t like having depressing stuff on my blog, but you do need to be a little scared; you do need to consider how you work online.
If you value your property and especially your life read on.
So what is Geotagging
Wikipedia describes Geotagging as: the process of adding geographical identification metadata to various media such as photographs, video, websites, or RSS feeds, and a form of geospatial metadata. These data usually consist of latitude and longitude coordinates, though they can also include altitude, bearing, accuracy data, and place names.
That sounds pretty harmless, so what’s the problem?
The problem is that people innocently take photos of their home, where they hang out, their friends’ places etc, and then upload them up to the web. If your camera saves geo-tag data, as my iPhone does, that information is uploaded with it. We are becoming very social beasts and share our lives on twitter, facebook etc, and unfortunately, that places location data in the hands of potential cyber-stalkers. Having an unlisted number is useless if you do things like this.
There are two problems with this. One is that through facebook and twitter etc these people know your habits. And secondly, with geo-tagging, combined with Flickr and Google Street View etc, they know where you do it. Potentially where you live, where you walk the dog, where your kids go to school etc.
Scary … but what’s a Cyber Stalker?
Essentially Cyber Stalking is where one person becomes infatuated with another and starts obsessively following them online.
I’ve had this happen a couple of times and it can be quite scary. Sometimes these people are covert and remain largely silent, other times they will make every attempt to make contact and be noticed. This can be emotionally very stressful, but it becomes physically dangerous when that obsession moves offline, and that is the point of this post. If you geo-tag your photos carelessly you make it so much easier for this to happen.
Here are five things you can do to protect yourself
#1. Consider turning off Geotagging in your camera and mobile. Certainly if it asks, “Can I use location data?” don’t do so at home or other places you consider ‘private’. I wouldn’t care too much about it when on holiday for example, and in fact it’s quite a cool feature in iPhoto, but I wouldn’t use it where my family regularly hang out.
#2. Talk to the kids. Make them aware of the danger of this. In fact monitor all your children’s online activity and set strict rules around interacting with strangers.
#3. If you like this feature, then just don’t upload to flickr etc without first stripping the meta data out of the photo.
#4. Don’t be scared online, but don’t be blasé either. Be considered about how people are interacting with you and whether or not they might be a risk. Some of my best friendships are with people I have met over the internet, but you must be careful.
#4. Spread the word. Please Please Please. Re-Tweet, Digg, and Stumble this post and let people know about the risks. The more people are aware, and the more we pressure places like Flickr to provide features that protect and/or educate us the safer we will all be.
Am I being over zealous? I don’t think so, but I’m curious what you think.
Step 1 – Spread the word NOW … Thanks :)
Step 2 – Let me and others know what you think, and/or do to stay safe online.