Photos taken with cell phone cameras often use the
cellphone's GPS system to place an invisible tag in the
photo telling the exact location it was taken at!
Watch out. Yout don't want to give away you location to computer savy cops who can use the photo to hunt you down!
Web Photos That Reveal Secrets, Like Where You Live
Thursday August 12, 2010, 2:00 am EDT
When Adam Savage, host of the popular science program “MythBusters,” posted a picture on Twitter of his automobile parked in front of his house, he let his fans know much more than that he drove a Toyota Land Cruiser.
Embedded in the image was a geotag, a bit of data providing the longitude and latitude of where the photo was taken. Hence, he revealed exactly where he lived. And since the accompanying text was “Now it’s off to work,” potential thieves knew he would not be at home.
Security experts and privacy advocates have recently begun warning about the potential dangers of geotags, which are embedded in photos and videos taken with GPS-equipped smartphones and digital cameras. Because the location data is not visible to the casual viewer, the concern is that many people may not realize it is there; and they could be compromising their privacy, if not their safety, when they post geotagged media online.
Mr. Savage said he knew about geotags. (He should, as host of a show popular with technology followers.) But he said he had neglected to disable the function on his iPhone before taking the picture and uploading it to Twitter.
“I guess it was a lack of concern because I’m not nearly famous enough to be stalked,” he said, “and if I am, I want a raise.”
Still, Mr. Savage has since turned off the geotag feature on his iPhone, and he isn’t worried about the archived photo on Twitter because he has moved to a new residence.
But others may not be so technologically informed or so blasé about their privacy.
“I’d say very few people know about geotag capabilities,” said Peter Eckersley, a staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, “and consent is sort of a slippery slope when the only way you can turn off the function on your smartphone is through an invisible menu that no one really knows about.”
Indeed, disabling the geotag function generally involves going through several layers of menus until you find the “location” setting, then selecting “off” or “don’t allow.” But doing this can sometimes turn off all GPS capabilities, including mapping, so it can get complicated.
The Web site ICanStalkU.com provides step-by-step instructions for disabling the photo geotagging function on iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Palm devices.
A person’s location is also revealed while using services like Foursquare and Gowalla as well as when posting to Twitter from a GPS-enabled mobile device, but the geographical data is not hidden as it is when posting photos.
A handful of academic researchers and independent Web security analysts, who call themselves “white hat hackers,” have been trying to raise awareness about geotags by releasing studies and giving presentations at technology get-togethers like the Hackers On Planet Earth, or Next HOPE, conference held last month in New York.
Their lectures and papers demonstrate the ubiquity of geotagged photos and videos on Web sites like Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Craigslist, and how these photos can be used to identify a person’s home and haunts.
Many of the pictures show people’s children playing in or around their homes. Others reveal expensive cars, computers and flat-screen televisions. There are also pictures of people at their friends’ houses or at the Starbucks they visit each morning.
By downloading free browser plug-ins like the Exif Viewer for Firefox (addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3905/ ) or Opanda IExif for Internet Explorer ( opanda.com/en/iexif/ ), anyone can pinpoint the location where the photo was taken and create a Google map.
Moreover, since multimedia sites like Twitter and YouTube have user-friendly application programming interfaces, or A.P.I.’s, someone with a little knowledge about writing computer code can create a program to search for geotagged photos in a systematic way. For example, they can search for those accompanied with text like “on vacation” or those taken in a specified neighborhood.
“Any 16 year-old with basic programming skills can do this,” said Gerald Friedland, a researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. He and a colleague, Robin Sommer, wrote a paper, “Cybercasing the Joint: On the Privacy Implications of Geotagging,” which they presented on Tuesday at a workshop in Washington during the Advanced Computing Systems Association’s annual conference on security.
The paper provides three examples of so-called cybercasing that use photos posted on Twitter and Craigslist and a homemade video on YouTube.
By looking at geotags and the text of posts, Mr. Sommer said, “you can easily find out where people live, what kind of things they have in their house and also when they are going to be away.”
“Our intent is not to show how it’s done,” he said, “but raise awareness so people can understand their devices and turn off those options if they want to.”
ICanStalkU.com, developed by the security consultants Larry Pesce of the NWN Corporation in Waltham, Mass., and Ben Jackson of Mayhemic Labs in Boston, uses a more direct approach to warning about the potential dangers of geotags. The site displays a real-time stream of geotagged photos posted on Twitter; the person who posted the photo also gets a notification via Twitter.
“The reaction from people is either anger, like ‘I’m going to punch you out,’ or ‘No duh, like I didn’t already know that’ or ‘Oh my God, I had no idea,’ ” Mr. Pesce said.
In the latter category was Cristina Parker of El Paso, who sells appliances part-time at Kmart and also manages social media for small companies. ICanStalkU.com notified her last week that a photo she had posted on Twitter of her Chihuahua, Zipp, also revealed where she lived.
“I immediately tweeted back to find out what I can do about it,” said Ms. Parker. The site sent her a Web link to instructions on how to turn off the geotag function on her LG Ally smartphone. “It’s definitely good to know for me personally and because of my social media work, too,” she said
Because of the way photographs are formatted by some sites like Facebook and Match.com, geotag information is not always retained when an image is uploaded, which provides some protection, albeit incidental. Other sites like Flickr have recently taken steps to block access to geotag data on images taken with smartphones unless a user explicitly allows it.
But experts say the problem goes far beyond social networking and photo sharing Web sites, regardless of whether they offer user privacy settings.
“There are so many places where people upload photos, like personal blogs and bulletin boards,” said Johannes B. Ullrich, chief technology officer of the SANS Technology Institute, which provides network security training and monitors the Internet for emerging security threats.
Protecting your privacy is not just a matter of being aware and personally responsible, said Mr. Sommer, the researcher. A friend may take a geotagged photo at your house and post it.
“You need to educate yourself and your friends but in the end, you really have no control,” he said, adding that he was considering writing a program to troll the Internet for photos with geotags corresponding to users’ home addresses.
“I’m beginning to think there may be a market for it.”
How are you doing this?
That's easy. Metadata
In short, metadata is more data about data. In most common document types, embedded within a file is more information, typically hidden from casual viewing. This hidden data is used by the computer programs to provide accurate processing information, i.e. what version of software was used to create the document, how the file is encoded, and often who created it.
In the case with many popular image/picture formats, the list of possible metadata is quite extensive. With the expanded options for metadata in JPEG images, we have the ability to record the photographer, camera settings (ISO, Aperture, Flash, lens type), processing software and location.
The metadata in images is often retained by default by desktop image processing software and many online photo storage websites. This information is often valuable to the photographer, as well as the website provider for demographic information. Of course, location is also one of the options available for storage in a JPEG image.
The storage of location based data, in the form of Latitude and Longitude inside of images is called Geotagging; essentially tagging you photograph with the geographic location. This data is stored inside if the metadata if JPEG images and is useful for tying the photograph to a location. Want to remember exactly where you took those photographs while on vacation? This information is for you.
However, most modern digital cameras do not automatically add geolocation (Latitude and Longitude) metadata to pictures. The process for adding the geolocation data either requires specialized add on hardware, or post processing with software on the desktop after the pictures are taken.
There is a large exception to this rule: Smartphones. With the proliferation of smart phones that contain GPS locator technology inside, the cameras in these devices are already equipped with the specialized hardware to automatically add geolocation information to the pictures at the time they are taken.
Most people don't realize that the action of automatic geotagging takes place on their smart phones, either because it is enabled by default, not exposed the user as an option, or was asked and then forgotten. As a result, individuals often share too much information about their location, right down to the exact Latitude and Longitude when snapping photos with their smartpphone and posting them online.
How do I disable this?
The easiest way to stop posting this information for all to see it to disable geotagging on your smartphone.
Disabling on your phone
For more info on how to disable geotagging on your phone check the orginal article which is here.
They have the nitty gritty details including photos, which I am too lazy to copy and add to this web page.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Geotagged photograph. (Discuss)
Geotag information in a JPEG photo, shown by the software gThumb Geotagger "Solmeta N2 Kompass" for Nikon DSLRFor information on geotagging content on Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:WikiProject Geographical coordinates. Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification metadata to various media such as photographs, video, websites, or RSS feeds and is a form of geospatial metadata. These data usually consist of latitude and longitude coordinates, though they can also include altitude, bearing, distance, accuracy data, and place names. It is commonly used for photographs, giving geotagged photographs.
Geotagging can help users find a wide variety of location-specific information. For instance, one can find images taken near a given location by entering latitude and longitude coordinates into a suitable image search engine. Geotagging-enabled information services can also potentially be used to find location-based news, websites, or other resources. Geotagging can tell users the location of the content of a given picture or other media or the point of view, and conversely on some media platforms show media relevant to a given location.
The related term geocoding refers to the process of taking non-coordinate based geographical identifiers, such as a street address, and finding associated geographic coordinates (or vice versa for reverse geocoding). Such techniques can be used together with geotagging to provide alternative search techniques.
The base for geotagging is positions. The position will, in almost every case, be derived from the global positioning system, and based on a latitude/longitude-coordinate system that presents each location on the earth from 180° west through 180° east along the Equator and 90° north through 90° south along the prime meridian.
Geotagging photos using GPS
Because of the requirement for wireless service providers to supply more precise location information for 911 calls by September 11, 2012 , more and more cell phones have built-in GPS chips. Some cell phones like the iPhone and Motorola Backflip already utilize a GPS chip along with built-in cameras to allow users to automatically geotag photos. Many digital cameras also have built-on or built-in GPS that allow for automatic geotagging. Nikon and Canon have also come out with custom geotagging solutions. Almost any digital camera can be coupled with a GPS and post-processed with photo mapping software to geotag photos by matching GPS coordinates with photos. Twitter, the popular social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets, allows its users to geotag their locations via their tweets and pictures.
Geotagging standards in electronic file formats
With photos stored in JPEG file format, the geotag information is typically embedded in the metadata (stored in Exchangeable image file format (EXIF) or Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP) format). These data are not visible in the picture itself but are read and written by special programs and most digital cameras and modern scanners. Latitude and longitude are stored in units of degrees with decimals. This geotag information can be read by many programs, such as the cross-platform open source ExifTool. An example readout for a photo might look like:
When stored in EXIF, the coordinates are represented as a series of rational numbers in the GPS sub-IFD. Here is a hexadecimal dump of the relevant section of the EXIF metadata (with big-endian byte order):
The GeoURL standard requires the ICBM tag method is used to geotag standard web pages in HTML format: