Do your pictures speak a thousand words?

Everywhere you go, you and I are taking pictures.

Thursday, 23rd January 2014, 3:11 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 6:38 am
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

You may be at the shops and see something nice. CLICK! You might be having dinner and enjoying a delicacy made by a chef. CLICK! You could simply be watching your kids playing in the park. CLICK!

Mobile phones have changed the way we behave in private and in public, and easy access to the internet and social media has made sharing our beloved photos that much easier.

Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, Google+... I’ll stop there while I still have breath. Sites like these all allow you to share photos which is great. You can do it straight from your smartphone too. Did you know that it may also have GPS information stored with the file?

Wait. What?

Smartphones can and do store GPS information as part of the image file. It is one of the things that makes them great, but it also raises concerns over privacy, public safety and theft. There is software available that can pick out that information and pin point the exact location that a picture was taken. Would you want someone unscrupulous knowing where you are or where you have been?

I thought not.

Thankfully there are ways to minimize the risk if you are concerned. The first and most obvious one is to check the setting is switched off on your smartphone, which you can find under location settings.

The second is to make sure you don’t include a location tag when sharing the image. Generally the default setting when sharing an image is to leave the location blank, which is a good thing. However, if you are unsure it is worth checking the settings for whichever social network you are using. Google+ for instance, allows you to change the default setting to automatically include GPS information with uploaded photos.

So, we are safe. Aren’t we? We have removed all traces of GPS information and that’s it isn’t it?

Not quite. Image recognition software is getting better by the minute. You can see the evidence of this when someone posts a photo of you, and facial recognition software asks to tag you in the image. Well, the same is happening with things as well. Not just obvious things like recognised land marks, but general architecture too. Take a photo of a street in London, or Paris, or wherever, and there is software that can tell you where that picture was taken.

Sounds scary, but don’t fret. One easy way to hide where you are, is not to post a picture until later on when you are no longer there. Alternatively, only share pictures privately and not publicly.

Also, location tracking has it’s advantages as well, otherwise we would not see it in such proliferation as we do now.