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.