Those cutesy photos in your phone of your puppy can reveal your location because the images leave footprints leading straight to your home. The trace data is called EXIF: exchangeable image file format. It may contain GPS coordinates of where you took the photos.
Apple’s and Google’s smartphones ask owners if it’s okay to access their location. Click “okay,” and this means every photo you take gets tagged with GPS coordinates. Thieves look for this information, which remains with images that are uploaded to Flickr, Photobucket, etc. (Facebook strips EXIF.) Crooks or pervs can then use Google Maps to get your exact location.
Prevent Geotagging: Six Steps
- For social media applications, turn off the location services.
- For iPhone, go to Settings, Privacy, Location Services, and turn off the location services.
- For Android, go to Settings, Location Services, and turn off the location services.
- There are apps such as Pixelgarde that wipe geotags from existing online photos.
- For computers, Windows can strip out the EXIF; just right click the image, click Properties, then in the “details” tab, hit the Remove Properties and Personal Information.
- Mac users can use XnView, but this bulk-stripper works also for Windows.
- Run Hotspot Shield which masks your IP address creating an incomplete profile of location data.
Many people don’t even know that photos store location information. You’re a walking map unless you take certain steps to protect your privacy. With those pictures you take with a smartphone camera, you also record all sorts of goodies like shutter speed, type of camera, date the image was taken, and of course…GPS coordinates. Here are the details for protecting your privacy:
- Select photos in Windows Explorer.
- Right-click them, hit Properties.
- Beneath the Details tab, click “Remove Properties and Personal Information.”
- A window will pop up; hit Okay.
- You’ll see a copy of each right-clicked photo in that same folder. The copied images are safe to upload.
Mac OS X
- Use an app called SmallImage. Download the file.
- Open the app; drag photos into its window.
- Uncheck the box called “Recompress at quality.”
- Click “Process,” and the copied photos will appear in the folder.
- To replace the original photos rather than make duplicates, uncheck the “Add Suffix” box.
- You’ll need a tool, EXIFTool. Install it on Ubuntu by running this command: sudo apt-get install libimage-exiftool-perl.
- Next, to create clean copies of your photos, cd to their folder, then run: exiftool -all= *.jpg.
- It will then generate copies of the photos
There exist a number of other programs for removing location data from your mobile phone, but the steps described here are among the easiest.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.