The Internet helps us connect and share with people around the world, but there are some people with whom you definitely shouldn’t be sharing your information. Although it’s not pleasant to think about, it’s not just friends and family that can see your online posts, bad guys can too, including criminals and even sex offenders.
So, when you take a photo of your kids in your backyard, know that if you post that picture on social media, a predator can potentially obtain the GPS coordinates of where that picture was shot.
This is because every time you take a picture, technical data is created and stored along with the image. This is called “EXIF data”, or exchangeable image file format. When this data includes location information, such as the exact GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken, the image is then “geotagged.”
The good news is you can view the EXIF data, and remove it to prevent predators from getting your location information. EXIF data will always be added to the storage of every picture you take; there’s no way to prevent this. But you can delete it.
Here’s how to prevent strangers from seeing your location information:
- Select the image on your computer and right-hand click on it.
- Select “properties.” You’ll find all the data here.
- Go to the location, or EXIF data.
- At the end of all the information you’ll see “Remove Properties and Personal Information.” This will wipe out the coordinates.
- You should go through this process before posting photos online, because once they’re online, you can’t control who sees this information.
- However, it will still be worth your while to strip this data from photos already posted online. For all you know, tomorrow is the day that a bad guy reads your location information, so today is the day to delete it.
Some people’s social media pages have an endless scroll of personal photos, including pictures of their children and teens. Be very selective of what you post online, and always delete the EXIF data before posting.
Save the pictures you don’t post for a hardcopy photo album. That way you’ll dramatically cut down on the time spent eradicating your location information, while increasing your online security.
Here’s some more tips to use location services safely:
- Turn off the GPS function on your smartphone camera or digital camera. This is important if you are going to be sharing your images online. Instructions on how to turn off geotagging will vary, but we suggest referring to your phone or camera’s manual for further instructions on how to adjust this feature. You also might want to consider only letting certain apps (like maps) use your location data on your mobile device.
- Check your privacy settings on social networks and photo sharing sites. Make sure that you are only sharing information with friends and family. Also, make sure that you only accept people into your network that you know in real life.
- Be aware of the fact that the information you share on one social network may be linked to another.For instance, a photo you post to Twitter may automatically post to your Facebook profile. Because of this, it’s important that you check the privacy settings on all your accounts.
- Finally, be careful about what images you’re sharing and when you are sharing them. Rather than uploading a picture that reveals your location the moment you take it, wait until you get home to upload it.