Cell phone photography is exploding in use these days. As our ability to take photographs becomes easier, so too does the inadvertent spread of our personal information. Devices such as the iPhone automatically embed GPS data into EXIF data of its photos. Uninformed use of certain social media sites / image hosting services can result in the inadvertent spread of personal information such as your approximate home address or daily routine.
It’s important to note that I’m a firm believer in embedding EXIF data into professional images from a dSLR so that you can be found for future work, image licensing or print sales. In this instance I’m focused on images that originate from mobile / cell phones and other mobile devices. For a complete list of what social media web sites preserve metadata refer to David Rieck’s Controlled Vocabulary Social Media survey.
As it relates to mobile / cell phone photography and privacy I was tipped off to the following news report by Michael E. Gordon. Ever aware of metadata and my online activity with my iPhone photography I felt comfortable I was in good shape on the privacy front, but I decided to check sites that I disiplay my iPhone photos just in case. What I learned was that my settings on some sites were not 100% correct. Below the following video I’ve outlined what sites did or did not include GPS data and what I had to do to adjust my settings to hide personal GPS data.
Mobile App Communities (ex. Best Camera, Instagr.am, etc.)
A general rule of thumb is that anytime a mobile app applies a visual change to your photos there is a good chance, as of this post date, the metadata of your photo is not being preserved. Apps such as Best Camera and Instagr.am that apply pre-set filters to alter the look of your photographs do not carry over metadata to the final version of your image. As it relates to privacy this is great, but if you’re sharing dSLR photos that are being made available commercially this is not such a great thing.
Facebook – Mobile Uploads & Places
Facebook has never preserved image metadata to the best of my knowledge. Once again this is great if you’re concerned about location related metadata in your mobile / cell phone photographs, but horrible if you’re uploading dSLR images for business purposes.
Flickr has long been at the forefront of geotagging photographs. They’ve implemented an elegant solution to read GPS data in a photographs metadata on import and show the location via Google maps on each photo page. I have (2) two Flickr accounts. One account is for my professional work and the other highlights photos taken from my cell phone. Checking my cell phone Flickr account I found that personal location data was being revealed on numerous photos and I had to remove it. The fastest way to do this was to batch remove GPS data. Here is how I did it….
Batch Delete GPS data on Flickr
- Navigate to “Organize & Create”
- At the bottom of the browser window just above the row of image thumbnails click “Select All” and drag them to where it says “Drag items here to edit them as a batch”
- Select the “Location” menu and choose “Change geoprivacy”
- Select remove Map information
To stop Flickr from importing GPS data from your photos (highly recommended for mobile phone images if privacy is a concern)
- Navigate to “You” > “Your Account” or click on your account name in the upper right of the browser window
- Select “Privacy & Permissions”
- Click on “edit” for “Import EXIF location data”
- Uncheck “Yes, please, that would be lovely.” and click Save under “Shall we import that information when a photo or video is uploaded or replaced?”
FourSquare & Gowalla
These applications are a fun way to share your whereabouts and activity with your social network. While shared images do not contain EXIF data the application is capturing / providing information on your location you voluntarily share with others via location services.
GPS Settings on your iPhone
To be 100% certain what applications are providing location based information about you via GPS you should check your iPhone settings. To do this follow these easy steps:
- Click on the Settings app
- Choose “General”
- Select “Location Services”
- Turn on or off the ability to relay GPS data to the list of apps found on your phone
I hope this information helps you get the most out of your online / mobile experience while preserving the level of privacy you prefer. I do not have access to an Android phone so if you have privacy tips please feel free to share them in the comments.
[tags]Photography, mobile phone, cell phone, privacy, GPS, geotagging, iPhone, Android[/tags]