“G” is for Geotagging and Social Media

Welcome to my 2016 A to Z series on how to establish a meaningful minimum for social media as part of a balanced life. Over the next 26 days, I’ll take a quick look at  some of the pluses and minuses of social media and how to adapt it to your own needs and plans.

Geotags, a type of GPS information, are a built-in feature of smartphones and digital cameras made popular by the social media platform, Foursquare. Used as a way of indexing location, geotags function like a handwritten note on the back of a photo where the information contains geographic coordinates. 

Geotagging on an image (Source: Wikipedia)

In the context of posts, geotags help readers to connect with an image. As marketing tools, they allow others to glean information about the popularity of places and venues. Geotags encourage relationships by connecting people to places they’ve visited or may visit, increasing a sense of community. 

Many people are unaware that these invisible bits of data are used by stalkers and thieves for targeting people and property. (SOURCE: Cybercasing the Joint) This information is transmitted automatically from smartphones and cameras without making the user aware in real time that this is happening. For more information about crime and Geotags, click here. Geotagged images from Craigslist have even been used to target high-end goods for sale resulting in crime. In terms of personal safety, it is widely recommended that people use care when geotagging photos of children. Branches of the U.S. Military have even issued statements recommending personnel avoid the use of geotagged images. On the positive side, in terms of natural disaster, turning on location services has been used as a way to locate missing people.

Disabling the Geotag feature on your smartphone is easy to do, though you may need to turn it back on when you want to use the GPS feature of your phone for mapping. On the iPhone, you will need to look to the location feature on the phone. 

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Above all, a measure of awareness about how this data can be used goes a long way towards creating personal safety. 

Question for today:

Do you know how to disable to the geotags/location information on your smartphone?
Does this issue concern you and do you have strategies you use to keep yourself or your loved ones safe on social media?

12 Replies to ““G” is for Geotagging and Social Media”

  1. No, that’s not terrifying. Not terrifying at all. Just EFFING terrifying! Fortunately, my instincts, when I first bought and set up my iPhone, were paranoid enough to cause me to shut off location services for all but Google maps. Even so, I still had to go and check just now to be sure my memory served me correctly. Whew! I wonder if DSLRs record the same data? Hmm…off to check Nikon’s site…

    Thanks for this informative post!

    1. DSLRs do (in general) record the same data. I know mine does. As a teacher, you are in a great position to tell students about the risks. Thanks for reading and commenting too.

  2. Paranoia can be a girl’s best friend. I do occasionally geotag myself but do so knowing full well what the risks are. My client requires annual security training on the responsible use of social media and strongly recommends either not allowing geotagging at all or by delaying posting of any geotagged images. Sure, it’s inconvenient having to turn location services on and off, but rather that than compromise safety. Vigilance is also a girl’s best friend.

    1. Your client is correct about the dangers and I was unaware of how widely law enforcement, the military, etc. have warned against the use of geotags. One thing I do sometimes is take a screenshot of a picture I have on display and use that. You can also convert photos to .png. This takes away some of the fun and spontaneity, but also makes for more mindful posting. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. I usually have my location settings turned off and only turn them on if I want to check in on Instagram or Facebook. I did have them on when we did our road trip around Australia because I could easily find out about places to see or visit while we were travelling…when we had reception that is!

    1. You captured the one benefit I would enjoy having on a trip, that ability to connect with others using the same service. Did you notice if the tags were visible on your photos? Thanks for commenting.

  4. This is a great topic and one that should be of concern. I do not have location settings turned on, but thanks to the information you shared I will be checking to ensure photo settings are off, as well!

    1. It’s weird how they sneak this stuff in. At least on Facebook they ask or push you to locate where you are. Honestly, this stuff is a little too “big brother” for us not to wonder about it yet great fun when safety precautions are in place. Thanks for reading.

  5. I always have location off on my phone, unless I’m using GPS because my battery sucks and my phone dies all too soon. I knew NOTHING of the security issues you shared here. Thanks, Tonia!

  6. Location services are almost always turned off. I’m crazy careful about this stuff but realize while it’s sometimes fun to “check-in” with location on social media, it’s not a great idea. Like that time I spent a month away and posted all about it – way to invite someone to rob my house, right?

    I hope you will also be covering privacy settings on fb posts. Besides other problems, when a post is shared as public, people who don’t even have Facebook accounts can find it. So unless you’re selling widgets that you want the whole world to see, I’d hope people would be more cautious.

    Sorry I wandered off there! Loving your series!

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