How to protect yourself when sharing photos online
Most smartphones and digital cameras save EXIF data in the captured image. This data contains all the photographer’s details including location, camera brand, camera settings, etc. In most cases, all these details are necessary especially to newbie photographers who want to horn their skills.
However, when it comes to sharing images on social media, some EXIF data like geotags should remain private. Metadata can be used by law enforcement to help in criminal investigations and Big Data analytics companies to analyze customer behavior. In the very same way, it’s used by data analytics and governments, criminals can also use it to track you all over the internet. Not to overlook the one major drawback, the geolocation coordinates can expose your home and business to criminals.
Researchers from Stanford University have revealed how easy it is to get sensitive personal information from metadata collected on their online platforms. They found that you can easily infer details about people’s location, religion, health status, among other character traits.
In this age of information overload, we are sharing so much of our lives online. From our thoughts and opinions to photos, texts, emails, and so much more. If every time you upload a geotagged photo, then you’re putting yourself in hot soup.
Here’s how dangerous it can be.
1. You’re selling products online
Not everyone is malicious but the few lucky ones can use the geotagged location to pinpoint exactly where your store is and plan a heist.
2. Online dating apps
There are both treasures and trash on online dating platforms and you never know what you’ll find. That bedroom selfie or WhatsApp image to a person who wants to ‘know you better’ might take you on a roller coaster ride. To err on the safe side, hide your name, location, and contact information. Otherwise, a stalker will know where to find you whether you want to be found or not.
3. You’re away on vacay
It’s so cool to show your Bahama’s vacay photos to your followers on Instagram. Your Instagram photo map only confirms you’re a thousand miles away. Perfect opportunity for one of your followers to drop by your house.
4. You have valuables
You’ve posted pictures of your home showing off your brand new car, décor, or bling. There are many criminals trolling social media.
Currently, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest strips off geotags from photos but they do show a map of the photos you have tagged. (Go to your profile and click on Places.) It doesn’t take a genius to figure out 70 photos tagged from the same place show where you stash your most valuable possessions.
How do you remove geotags from photos?
For Android phones:
- Open the camera app.
- Tap the setting icon.
- Scroll down to the Location/GPS tag and turn it OFF.
- From the home screen, tap the setting icon.
- Scroll down to the Privacy tab and tap Location Services.
- Open the camera tab and you’ll see Allow Location Access, Select NEVER.
How to remove Geotags from already captured photos
Right-click on the image on your PC then select Properties > Details. Click on Remove Properties and Personal Information and Press OK.
There’s already enough of our lives online. No need to add geotags, locations, and dates on our photos. But don’t go uber-paranoid and turn off all location services on apps. Disable those that you don’t need. The rule of thumb is ‘when in doubt, just strip it.’