mobile phone

Be Smart about Smartphone Pictures and Security

The camera or mobile device you use to post photos and videos on social media and in eMails may have a geotagging feature.  You have to turn on geotagging for a digital camera, but for smartphone cameras , it’s already on.  If the geotag feature is on, your photo will have the longitude and latitude of where the photo was taken digitally and invisibly stored.  That may be okay or not.  Let’s think this through together. (You may also need to see if your other mobile devices, such as iPads, have geotagging turned on for photos.)

This video explains the big picture about the security and privacy issues that geotagging raises, but after you watch the video, please read the rest of this post.

Okay, now, don’t panic.  At this point, a child molester is probably not using the internet to learn your child’s whereabouts and determining when to kidnap him.

Harvesting geotags information is not a big criminal activity, but let’s not wait until it is.  We all need to look at this information and start making some changes.

What Can My Photos (and Videos) Reveal?

  • The video made it clear that your family, home and places you frequent can be determined.
  • Other objects in your photos may be important for you to be aware of, like the flat screen TV behind Uncle Joe at his birthday party.  Your Pekinese or the car you drive.
  • Don’t have geotagging turned on for photos of expensive items you want to sell on Craigslist or eBay.


After you’ve come home from a tour of the western American National Parks, it’s probably not a problem to send photos in emails or post them with the geolocation embedded.  You’re back home now and you may even want to have the places you visited show up on your Picasa online photo album.

However, are you currently traveling?

  • Don’t advertise that you aren’t home.   Think through what you’re posting.  Think about whether you want to upload a photo from your phone while away from home with your geotag feature on!  Probably not.  The picture itself may not reveal where you are, but the geotag will.
  • Don’t indicate where you are through your phone’s geotagged photos on social media or in an email if it compromises your safety or the safety of others.  Turn the geotag feature off, at least while taking photos you wish to use.
  • The above is especially true for travel in difficult countries.  Please be aware of ministry issues for in-country Christians and ministry workers.

How do I turn this feature off?

Watch the last minute of the video again.  You could leave the GPS working on your phone if you’re using it to navigate on your trip, turning off only the camera’s geotagging feature.  Go to this link for help with your specific phone.

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