Friday, August 17, 2012

Dangers of Geotagging and Location Aware Services

Every new and wonderful technology feature brings along its share of undesired effects bundled with the effervescent benefits. Geotagging or Geo Tagging is one such feature. To explain Geotagging in simple terms, it is nothing but including geographical information(location data) as tag within a file. These files can be of any type but mostly picture files are geotagged.

Why has geotagging suddenly become so prominent?
Smartphones and cameras with  GPS (Global Positioning System) feature is the norm now-a-days. By default the GPS location data is embedded into all the pictures taken by these devices. In addition you have location aware applications and games and location based social networking sites/platforms. Facebook uses "Update Status" for location update. Foursquare is a game wherein in your location is the integral part of the gaming strategy. There are software available which can add location data to picture and other files if this was not done inherently.

What can be bad about Geotagging and location data?
If you indiscriminately share geotagged pictures, SMSs and other files and update your current location in applications like Facebook then you are revealing too much of your whereabouts to the public at large. You can become a victim of cyberstalking. Burglars can target your house when you tweet that your are away somewhere in the woods enjoying a sunday picnic. In fact your are giving away information about your pattern of movements, place of residence and other such details for free and putting yourself and your family at risk. Kids who share photos and tweet on twitter a lot without giving a thought about the broadcasted location information may land up as victims of serious crimes.

It is important that all of us are aware of the dangers of this feature and know how to adopt the countermeasures. The most important countermeasure is to avoid oversharing. The default configurations which automatically include location data or tags need to be disabled or changed. The specific tips are listed on the SECURITY TIPS page.

Interesting links on the topic :