The New York Times reports on questions about personal privacy that can arise from “geotagging” photographs or videos — embedding GPS location data — and then publishing those photos on Web sites or social-networking services such as Twitter or Facebook.
Security experts and privacy advocates have recently begun warning about the potential dangers of geotags, which are embedded in photos and videos taken with GPS-equipped smartphones and digital cameras. Because the location data is not visible to the casual viewer, the concern is that many people may not realize it is there; and they could be compromising their privacy, if not their safety, when they post geotagged media online. […]
“I’d say very few people know about geotag capabilities,” said Peter Eckersley, a staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, “and consent is sort of a slippery slope when the only way you can turn off the function on your smartphone is through an invisible menu that no one really knows about.”
Indeed, disabling the geotag function generally involves going through several layers of menus until you find the “location” setting, then selecting “off” or “don’t allow.” But doing this can sometimes turn off all GPS capabilities, including mapping, so it can get complicated. […]
A handful of academic researchers and independent Web security analysts, who call themselves “white hat hackers,” have been trying to raise awareness about geotags by releasing studies and giving presentations at technology get-togethers like the Hackers On Planet Earth, or Next HOPE, conference held last month in New York.
Their lectures and papers demonstrate the ubiquity of geotagged photos and videos on Web sites like Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Craigslist, and how these photos can be used to identify a person’s home and haunts.