In December 2012, John McAfee was on the run from the Belizean police. He suspected that he was about to be framed for a neighbor’s murder, so he escaped before they could arrest him. But they knew exactly where he was. Vice Magazine had interviewed him and posted pictures on their website. The pictures had GPS coordinates embedded in them.
Many people are unaware that when they take pictures on their phones, the pictures often have GPS coordinates automatically embedded in them. The information embedded in images is called Exif (Exchangeable Image File Format). It’s a neat feature for later finding the exact location where a picture was taken, or mapping out your travels, but it can be a major privacy issue. Many of the photos we take (especially if you have young kids) are taken at home. If you upload these pictures online with the GPS coordinates embedded, hackers can easily find out where you live.
I know Facebook and Twitter remove location data from pictures when you upload them. I think most social media sites remove private data from photos when you upload to them. However, bloggers would be particularly susceptible to their location being compromised because most blogging software does not remove location information from uploaded pictures.
Now that you’re aware of the problem, there are several options for solving it. Windows and OS X provide ways to remove location data from photos. The bottom of that same article also tells you how to turn off location embedding on your phone. There are also WordPress plug-ins that will strip Exif data from pictures when you upload them.
GeoSetter is a tool I’ve tried for viewing and editing Exif data. It is a bit technical and difficult to use but has a neat feature for easily showing a picture’s location data on a map.