Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Geotagging: Should Privacy Be a Concern

One widget continuing to grow in popularity is geotagging -- adding a geographical location (usually in longitude and latitude coordinates) to social media content, such as Flickr or Facebook, using Global Positioning System or WiFi Triangulation technology. Geotagging allows users to specifically locate the source of interesting posts, videos, etc. Although a simple mechanism, it's shaping up to possibly be a $100 million-plus business, according to a recent article on gigaom.com. Debating its potential profit is one thing, but what about privacy issues? Should users be concerned about letting others know where they are, when they publish content? Do the benefits of sharing your location for social/education purposes outweigh giving up your privacy? Should users be to blame for breach of privacy issues?

Wikipedia briefly mentions privacy concerns on their "Auto-geotagging" entry noting that this type of software "can track people’s locations."

While you can edit your privacy settings and switch geotagging off, sometimes people forget to turn it off after turning it on once. Also, by then others users have had access to your location history. Convenient and user-friendly features such as Google Maps "How To Get There", downloadable flash and non-flash maps, and email and instant messaging directions make it simple for stalkers to load information to their phones and go.

A PCMag.com article takes a lesson from the Google Buzz privacy debacle and advises users to avoid the safety hazard by simply turning off their location feature.

For Internet Law Firms the bulk of legal privacy cases specific to geotagging has yet to become a mainstream issue, be cautious before readily tagging your latest picture or blog of your home, workplace, or hangout -- you never know who's following you online and in reality. Besides, isn't a general description (i.e. Los Angeles) enough?

This article by Taren Fujimoto. Edited by Erik Syverson.

1 comment:

Pixelgarde said...

When in doubt, it's best to turn geotagging off, but there are free altnernatives, like Pixelgarde Photo Privacy Editor, which let you control what you share, like geotags, dates, names tags, etc. It's a free app for iPhone, Android and PC, so it's a good alternative to turning off geotagging.