How Photos Broadcast Your Location

By: Robert Siciliano | July 14, 2015 (Edited July 7, 2017)


Do you know what EXIF is? Or rather...what it contains?

Here's another question: Do you know how EXIF can help a burglar find your home or a pedophile find your child?

EXIF contains data from your smartphone or digital camera. This may include where the photo of your child was taken. A predator could get ahold of this information and find out where the photo was taken which might be your living rom. All you need do is post the photo on social media, and the predator can easily get the GPS coordinates.

Your phone or camera has storage. Take a picture, and a file will be written to that storage. EXIF stands for exchangeable image file format. "Geotagging" refers to the storage of data that tells where the photo was taken. EXIF data can be viewed by you and removed as well, and geolocation capability can be deactivated.

  • You can view the EXIF in the image's properties.
  • EXIF contains a lot of data, stuff that you'll probably have zero interest in. It's the location data that you'll want to take note of.
  • There is no way to prevent the process of adding EXIF data to the storage. However, you can get rid of it.
  • As for the geotagging aspect of the metadata, you can switch off this process in your phone or camera.
  • Suppose you just took a picture of your five-year-old daughter in your backyard. Select this image, right-click it, then select Properties. This way you can view the EXIF.
  • At the end of the properties information is "Remove Properties and Personal Information." This will get rid of the personal data.
  • You should strip this data before posting any photos online. Because once they're online...the data is out there for anyone to see.
  • Be selective of which photos of your kids you want to share on social media, because the more you want to put up, the more images you'll need to strip the data from.

If you don't have kids, you may still want to preserve your home or apartments security by keeping your GPS data offline and being very choosy about which images to post for the whole world to see.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to discussing  identity theft prevention.


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