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Is your phone revealing too much?
Could geotagging be telling the world too much about your child?
I’ve been drooling about the thought of the new Samsung smartphone, mostly because it has a built in application for reading ebooks. It’s also got all the other bells and whistles, including the GPS and camera. 

Then I came across this article in the New York Times: Web photos that reveal secrets, like where you live. This was the first time I had heard of geotagging. 

So what is geotagging?

All files have some data hidden inside the file. Most of it has to do with what type of file it is, what program was used to create it and who is the author. 

In the case of image files, the hidden information that can be stored is extensive. The camera can record the settings, the photographer and also the location. Adding the location, or geotagging, automatically is at the moment confined to smartphones and the higher scale digital SLR cameras. 

Want to know what info you’re sharing on the web? Right click on your image file, go to properties and click on the details tab. Scroll down and see what info is imbedded in your image.

Why is it dangerous?

The danger in geotagging lies in whether you are aware of it or not. Take a picture of your child’s outfit for the day in front of the school with your smartphone and load it directly on to your blog, Twitter or Facebook. If your geotagging wasn’t disabled you’ve just told everyone exactly where your kid goes to school.

Does this really work?

I’m fairly sceptical about doom and gloom type stuff, so I did a little test of my own. It took me roughly 10 minutes to google and install an extension to my web browser that easily allowed me to read 'exif' data - the part of the image file that contained the hidden information. 

Next I tried four of my fellow mommy bloggers to see if I could get any info out of their images. I didn’t manage to find their addresses, but I did find out that one had used a Blackberry 9700 to take the pictures. Some of the images were stripped of the 'exif' data, others had just basic info available. But I only tried four. 

Gerald Friedland and Robin Sommer researched the availability of location information imbedded in photos. Their findings showed that although less than 5% of the images and videos they sampled contained locations, the information was available. It was also very accurate.Their test showed the location within 1m.

How do I stop sharing my location?

This is the easy part. You can either disable the geotagging function on your smartphone or you can strip the information from the file after you’ve downloaded the file to your computer. 

To disable the function on your phone you can have a look at the following website that has step-by-step instructions for some of the popular smartphones or you can contact the manufacturer of your phone.

If you prefer to strip the information from the file after you’ve downloaded you have two choices.  You can download and buy an application like 'ExifCleaner' that allows you to clean many files at once, or you can do it one-by-one with Windows Explorer. Right click on the image file, go to properties and click on the details tab. You’ll see a link at the bottom that reads 'Remove Properties and Personal Information'. This will open a new window where you can follow the prompts to remove the information you don’t want to share.

How careful are you about photos posted on the internet?

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