The risk of geo-tagging

Once more, new technology introduced threats on privacy. FRIEDLAND Gerald and SOMMER Robin, in their paper “Cybercasing the Joint: On the Privacy Implications of Geo-Tagging” clearly highlight the new risks.

Many high end phones, such as iPhones, come with GPS. Undoubtfully, GPS is a great feature. Once you used it, you cannot live anymore without. Nevertheless, the combination of GPS and camera is a problem. Currently, all such devices embed a geo-tag, i.e. the precise location, in the metadata of pictures shot by the camera. And many of such pictures end up on Flicker, Facebook and Craig List. This metadata can be easily extracted through standard tools.

In other words, if you publish on Internet a picture of your house taken with your iPhone, it will be extremely easy for anybody to locate you for instance using Google Street View. The paper presents a very illustrative example.

Of course, you can disable the geo-tagging. But, (1) you must be aware of the threat, and then (2) find how to disable it. The solution should be that the manufacturers make this feature as opt-in, i.e. disabled by default. Very unlikely, because manufacturers load the devices with new features ready to work.

If you have a mobile phone with GPS, think about it. Personnaly, I know what I would do.

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