This week while looking at Facebook posts of friends and their families, I noticed something when downloading a picture that included my daughter. I noticed that the picture had a significant amount of EXIF / META data. So, before you yawn… Let me explain.

Most cellphone as well as a large amount of DLSR cameras, embed information commonly referred to as Geotagging into your pictures. This information tells anyone viewing the image exactly where it was taken. So think about it for a minute or so and let it sink in. If you are taking pictures of your family in your home or backyard and posting them to your favorite social media site like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and so on, your are also broadcasting your location to EVERYONE, and that information is accurate up to about 3 feet.

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Example #1


Take a look at the image on the right (Example #1). This is a typical Instagram post. If you download this file from Instagram by simply using Right-Click “View Background Image”, it will show the image alone on either a new tab or the same tab depending on your settings. Save the file to your Desktop (Using: Right Click | Save Image As) and then Right-Click on the image and select “Properties” from the bottom of the list. It should look like something here below in Example 2.


Example #2

If you select the third tab “Details” and scroll down almost to the bottom, you will find a section called “GPS”. This section shows both the Latitude and Longitude as well as the altitude. If that section does not exist, then the camera used did not capture this information when the picture was taken, or the editing program used to format the picture removed it.  Before you think that none of your images have GPS information tagged in them, make sure you check several first and definitely check any of your photos that you have not already edited on your phone or desktop computer.

In this example, the image reports that the GPS information for this image is Latitude: 33:20: 38.850000 and Longitude:  118:19:27.94699 (or as a Sexagesimal:  Longitude N33°20’38.85″, Latitude W118°19’27.95″).  Google uses the Sexagesimal version for locating map coordinates.  You can use a simple Sexagesimal Location Calculator to convert the decimal version.  I found one at:  Ship Movements.

If you go to Google Maps, you can enter the information “N33°20’38.85; W118°19’27.95” in where you would normally place the address and in this case, the following below will come up (Example 3) …

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Example 3

The GPS information recorded on the picture is within a foot of where the picture was taken on the Catalina Island Avalon Pier.  Just imagine if you are taking family pictures in your home and posting them to Instagram or Facebook with this information?  Sadly enough, I selected about 10 friends on Facebook and another 10 from my Instagram fan base to test this scenario out.  Of the 20 tested tested, fourteen of them contained pictures that provided GPS information of their homes or that of their friend’s homes.

Now that you are a little panicked and I have your attention, hopefully your next question is how do I prevent that from happening?  You are going to need to disable Geotagging on your smartphone or camera.

Here is how:

Cellular Telephone Cameras:

Apple greatly simplified the way to turn off location services on a per-application basis. To see your settings, go to Settings, General, then Location Services. From there you can set which applications can access your GPS coordinates or disable it entirely.  Take a look below at Example 4.


Privacy Article Iphone Example

Example 4

On the earlier versions of iPhone such as iOS 3.x there are two ways to disable Geotagging of photos. The first involves disabling of all location based services. To disable this feature, Go to Settings, General then set Location Services to off.


This will turn off ALL location based services for ALL applications. Of course we may actually have need to use location based services for other applications (such as maps and driving directions, or getting robbed via Foursquare), but just not for our pictures. There is no easy way to disable location based services for just one application. However, we can make the iPhone prompt us at first use for each application. Once reset, the first time we enter the application we can enable or disable location based services for the application. To do so we need to go to Settings, General, Reset.   See Example 5 below:


Privacy Article Iphone Settings

Example 5


Be careful here! We want to select Reset Location Warnings, and then Reset Warnings. This restores all of our Location based warnings for each application to the default, which in most cases is “Ask on first use”.   See Example 6 below:

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Example 6


From here, once we enter into the default Camera app on the iPhone, we can select Don’t Allow. This will prevent the Camera app from Geotagging our photos in the future!  See Example 7 below:

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Example 7


Android phones will vary from model to model.  Some of the phones unfortunately will only allow you to turn of Geo location services as a whole, thus removing your ability to have mapping programs locate you and assist in directions to your favorite restaurant or anything else.

I would first suggest that you take a few pictures with your camera on your smartphone and see if it is recording this information.  If it isn’t, then you really have nothing to worry about with your phone.  Move on to checking your digital cameras that you may own and see what they are doing.  Most digital cameras have settings within the camera to easily turn off Geotagging.

If your camera is recording this information, you will need to contact your phone manufacturer if you cannot turn off this setting based upon individual applications.  Another suggestion is to download a new camera application from Google Play that has the ability to disabled Geotagging.

Another suggestion of course is to go through your photos that you have uploaded to the various social media sites and remove those with Geotagging.  You can easily remove the information from the photos by Right Clicking on the image from Windows Explorer and selecting the Details tab.  From there, go to the bottom as shown in Example 8, and select “Remove Properties and Personal Information”.

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Example 8

Hopefully this will assist in the process of helping better manage your personal privacy online.  Remember, there are so many different ways to protect your information online.  You need to be diligent in your management of your information.  The people exploiting your identity online certainly are.  In the United States, there are 20 people who fall victim to identity theft EVERY MINUTE.

I am going to continue to write articles and post them here and on my social media accounts in order to help people better protect themselves and their families.