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The Risks of Geotagging

August 17, 2017

It can be handy having your camera, mobile phone, and social media accounts tag your photos with time and location. It makes it easier to manage your pics, and it also adds authenticity to your exotic travels. The feature is called geotagging, and it can be convenient and fun. It can also be risky for you or other people in your photos, so use it with care.

The concern is that geotagging can disclose your whereabouts and activities to the wrong people. At a minimum, geotagging could get you in trouble with family or friends: if you called in sick for your great aunt’s annual garden party, you don’t want your cousin showing everyone the Instagram of you water-skiing with buddies. Worse, criminals could use the information to track your whereabouts. If they know you’re sipping piña coladas on the beach in Mexico, that could make your house an attractive burglary target. Or they might use that knowledge to scam a relative, posing as you in trouble abroad and asking for money. The scariest risk is that someone could use geotagging in real-time apps like SnapChat to track and stalk you.

Here are some of the best tips to help you use geotagging safely:

  • Think before posting tagged photos. Ask yourself: Could this cause risk or embarrassment to me or anyone in the photo? If in doubt, don’t post. And be especially careful about posting photos of minors.
  • Be careful posting photos of private spaces such as your home, since geotagging could give would-be intruders the address and other information they need for a break-in.
  • Know how to turn geotagging on and off on all your devices and cameras, and be aware of whether it is on.
  • Regularly review what applications are using location services and turn them off for any that don’t require it.
  • Keep your privacy settings on social media up to date so you know who will be able to view tagged photos.

There are plenty of risks to sharing your location so it’s definitely worth asking yourself if sharing is worth it.

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