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Protecting your Kids from Social Mapping via Location Based Services

We’ll start this out with an image.  Can you tell what’s special and interesting about this:

Of course, it’s the latitude and longitude coordinates under the GPS tab (along with time, elevation and even the direction I was facing when I took the image further down).  And, there’s this handy-dandy “Locate” button at the bottom.  Pressing that button takes you to this:

And here’s the pretty picture that contains all of that lovely location information above.  It’s of clear creak along I-70 that I took while on an Alpine Rescue Team training last month.

So, what does that mean? Well, pretty much all the smart phones created these days are able to track the location of the photo you took with the embedded location based services GPS function in the phone (some cameras have this too).  I would also hazard to guess that all phones come with this turned on by default.

You can easily see that with your location services turned on, any picture you take will have the information embedded in it to show on a map exactly where that photo was taken.  Now, it’s not a stretch to imagine you or your kids taking pictures and emailing them around, but if they get in the wrong hands, someone can see where it was taken.  If it was while on vacation, it might not be a big deal.  But what if it’s at home or school or the playground or somewhere you go regularly?

As I’ve said before, chances are nothing is ever going to happen, and that’s great!  And I’m not saying to turn this service off, but, it’s a good idea to keep this in mind next time your sharing photos.  Fortunately, Facebook strips this info out when you upload photos, but I can’t be sure about every other social media service out there.

On the iPhone, it’s pretty easy to manage the location services by going to Settings –> Location Services and you’ll see you can turn it on or off for everything or for each individual app you have installed and can easily swipe them on or off.

As for how to see the GPS details in your photos, most image software on your computer should have some sort of “photo information” menu item.  In Preview, the most basic image program on the mac, it’s a matter of opening the image, and then selecting Tools –> Show Inspector or hitting Command and the “I” key.

So, it’s pretty simple to find the GPS data in a photo and also to manage your location services on your phone.

But, as good as the iPhone is, it won’t let you edit that information after you’ve taken the photo.  maybe it will in the future, but I haven’t seen that talked about yet – I think I’ll suggest that to Apple…

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