People love to take pictures – lots of them. Plus, in this day and age, online social networking sites have made it easy to upload

Mobile phones and online security risks

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Geotagging 1

People love to take pictures – lots of them. Plus, in this day and age, online social networking sites have made it easy to upload such pictures to share to the world.

What many phone users may be unaware of is that those pictures pose serious potential security risks to them and their loved ones. This is thanks to the same technology that makes many useful features available on their shiny phones.

GPS and Location Services
GPS allows the very location of a phone to be tracked anywhere on the globe. GPS is used by map services, including Ovi Maps and BlackBerry Maps, and Google Maps, among others. With GPS-based services, you can find places all over the world and be guided to those very places. Cool and useful.

GPS is used by popular services like Foursquare as well. Fun, yes.

GPS also allows you to tag pictures taken with your phones with the location at which those pictures were taken. It is good for those times when you are having an adventure out in the wild during a Safari or a holiday. But…

The Other Side
If you do take pictures from a sensitive location, e.g. your home, and GPS tagging is enabled in your phone camera, it means that those same pictures when uploaded are embedded with information on the location of your home.

Are your alarm bells ringing yet? Do you feel like throwing away your phone? Nah; don’t do that yet.

What to Do
Every time you purchase a phone – I mean every single time – one of the first things that you need to check are the GPS, positioning or location settings. Note those three words – “GPS”, “Positioning”, and “Location”.

Find those settings and turn them off.

Also launch your camera and find the option to disable Geo-tagging. Note that word “Geo-tagging”.

Having geo-tagged media uploaded means that the location at which those media were captured can be traced by anyone who knows where to look.

For example, if you upload pictures taken at home or other sensitive places to Facebook, Picasa et al, do yourself a favour and turn off geo-tagging of your pictures and videos. You really do not need the world to be able to find your home.

Use on a Need Basis
When you do need GPS, geo-tagging, or location services, feel free to turn them on and enjoy their use. The potential risks will always be there, yes, but a little caution does not hurt.


  1. Great post there!

    Exposing sensitive info inadvertently is one thing but, It amazes me the level of information that people DELIBERATELY upload / post for the world to see.

    Someone once posted on his wall his new location (residence) – (complete with street name and house number!).Plain stupid, if you ask me!

    We need to be more security aware…

  2. This article points out the advantages and disadvantages of GPS. I must commend this. However, aren’t we taking the issue of security a little bit too serious? What’s wrong in uploading your info & pix with geo-tagging? Its fun to let people know where those nice pix were taken. Are you the president of your country or perhaps Ghaddafi? Then you can hide yourself otherwise, I see nothing wrong in showing one’s location. Who wants to come after you? Why are you afraid? Am I seeing a little phobia or delusions here?

  3. Talking of sensitive locations like places with high security concerns in your country, you wouldn’t want a location service enabled on your camera. Most times, you will be prevented from taking pictures. But your home, garden, the park etc have no security risk whatsoever as far as geo-tagging is concerned unless you are a poblic figure that can be targeted by terrorists etc. But for a common man like you and me, I beg to differ on security concern here. A petty thief will not have the technology to pinpoint you or it will not be cost effective for him.

  4. ‘. A petty thief will not have the technology to pinpoint you or it will not be cost effective for him.’
    Petty thief, yes.


    You could be surprised @ the level of sophistication possible. There are graduate robbers that make use of technology at a high level too.

    To ‘419’ you, someone can collect info about you over time (if you are in. the habit of posting personal details indiscriminately) It makes the job that much easier!

  5. This reminds me of a funny coleague who refused to sign up to a recently deployed central network printer in the office, citing too much control and monitoring of people’s activities.funny as it is, truth is we are all wired, connected, and monitored and we can’t run away 4m it. Technology will be the ultimate tool of the AntiChrist, and you know according to the prophecy, there’s no hiding place for anybody. We ain’t seen nothing yet.

  6. Yomi’s point is very valid. I tend to agree with him completely. If you are traveling to Paris for two weeks for instance there may not be much security risk in posting your location. But for God’s sake, not your home address. That’s the heights. The security risk is unquantifiable!

  7. Well, it’s not just about 419 and thieves. You may endanger the lives of your loved ones. They could be kidnapped, stalked e.t.c.

    And apart from security risks, exposing too much info on the internet esp. facebook could cost you your job.

    My 2 cents

  8. @deoladoctor, take this:usin ur home as a dummy2d police by a savy criminal.usin ur home as rear operational center, when ure outof town.etc

  9. imagine a cocaine baron looking for a quick warehouse for his product,found ur house,breaks in&stores them.&d police locks on2ur home?HELL!

  10. @cece
    The antichrist angle is very colorful…

    Your points are very valid. With what you post on the net, they may get the wrong impression that you are a moneybag and your family may be at risk of kidnapping.

    Aren’t we going just a little bit too creative with our imagination? Yeah, the American film style.

  11. GPS not so useful when am taking pics at home so its switched off.

    But for Maps, GPS is too useful. Gives precise location esp when outdoors.

    I believe one can switch it off for camera and leave it on for Maps.

    Anyway, leaving GPS on 24/7 can even reduce battery life so its preferable to only on it when needed.

    Another thing people should also consider is Twitter and Facebook security settings.

    For Twitter, I will advice you should not allow twitter to Add a location to your tweets. There are apps that can trace you.

    For Facebook, just go modify the setting for Facebook places and check in.

  12. @Deoladoctor Imagine posting on facebook that you are travelling to london with your family for two weeks. Or you are going out to church this morning and a thief cleverly buggles your Home when you were away. And of Course not all Facebook pals are your actual friends. One of them could be a high class thief. Just waiting for the right information to swindle you.

  13. Tosin A@in school we had this yoruba professor of Organic chemistry, who happened to be the only black man in his set in glascow univerisity scotland.

    He used to boast that he worked on the lab bench that the great Marie curie worked on – Those of us in the pure sciences would appreciate this boast.

    He was also a herbal doctor – and believe me he was/is very good. While in school we believed he had hypnotic powers,he was also an orator – very powerful. We ended up calling him jujukemist. In honor to him I took the name jujukemist (he thought us so well that we go about believing that no other profession on the earth is as sublime as being a chemist, especially one who can synthesis bread from stone!

    @deoladoctor, so you think its american film imagination? you did be shocked to discover, that we all have been practically driven by our potent IMAGINATIONS

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