Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, and the Date, and the Time, and your Exact GPS Location!

Warning: this blog is going to show you information that can be used for good or evil.

If you are taking pictures with your phone (and even some cameras) and then posting those pictures on the internet, you are sharing more than just the picture. You are probably also sharing the date and time the picture was taken, the type of phone you have, what software you are using, and scariest of all - the exact location where the picture was taken.

Do I have your attention now?

Let me show you how it works:

This morning I took the above picture with my IPhone. I edited the picture on my computer and posted it here. Even after editing the picture, however, the picture retains certain embedded information.

To see this additional information you don't have to be a super smart computer hacker. On a PC, simply right-click the picture and select properties:

Now click on the details tab and immediately you will see some information that I might not have intended to share, such as the date and time the photo was taken:

When you scroll down and view the other details you see that you can also discovery I took this photo with an Apple iPhone 4. And although I might want you to know that I have an iPhone 4 so you can be super jealous, I probably don't want you to know the next thing you can discover if you keep scrolling down:

As shown in the image above, the details saved in the embedded data of this picture include the GPS Latitude and Longitude where it was taken. How did they get there? iPhones, as a "convenient feature," geo-tag all photos with this information. When you post the picture online, these details will often still remain with the image. This means that someone with minimal computer skills can figure out exactly where you were when you took the picture.

If I take the GPS Latitude and Longitude displayed in the above image and enter them into the FCC's online converter I get the following decimal results: Lat 42.288166, Long 71.333667. If I then enter these figures into an online address converter, I am told that this picture was taken at: 150 E Central St, Natick, MA 01760, USA.

Although not exact this approximation is too close for comfort (the picture was actually taken at my office located at 154 E. Central St., Natick, MA 01760).

By posting this information I realize that I am showing potential stalkers how to get information on their victims. However, I am hopeful that the majority of our readers will benefit from this information by protecting themselves rather than using it against others.

There are numerous ways in which this information could be used by attorneys or litigants in divorce cases to prove the whereabouts of somebody if those issues are in question. And the potential issues this raises in cases involving Domestic Violence are painfully obvious.

So here is the valuable TIP: Be careful what you share online, and always make sure you consider not just the information you intend to share but what information you might also be sharing inadvertently. Most phones will allow you to disable the geo-tagging feature. If you have an iPhone you can disable this feature as described in this eHow article.

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