Cell phones and cameras go together naturally, and when paired with social media services like Twitter, it’s become incredibly easy for us to share our lives with our loved ones. The problem comes when we unknowingly share more than we’re aware of. Nearly all digital photos contain metadata, which is information about the photo. Usually, it’s standard photographic information, like shutter and aperture settings as well as the date and time the photo was taken. Most modern smartphones, however, also have geotagging capabilities, which provide GPS coordinates in photo metadata. This might be quite helpful if you’re taking a trip and want to match up your photos to the place you were at when you took them. The problem comes in when you’ve posted the photo in a public forum, since you’re also posting the metadata as well.
Device makers have unfortunately made the whole issue of geotagging photos murky and difficult to understand (they do, after all, have more to gain the more you share your location, due to the growth of location-based advertising). That’s why Mayhemic Labs has created a site (rather salaciously) called icanstalku.com. The site pulls geotagged photos from Twitter photo sharing services like Twitpic and Yfrog, and maps the location where the photos were taken. Looking through the site is a little unsettling, which is exactly the point – Mayhemic’s goal is to make you aware of what it is you’re sharing with the world.
In iOS 4, you can turn off geotagging photos by going going to Settings and selecting General.
Select Location Services.
And turn it off for the Camera app.
(The little compass arrow pointing to the northeast indicates the application has accessed your location data within the last 24 hours).
For users on iPhone OS 3 or earlier, you can only turn off location services globally (in other words, you don’t have control over which specific applications have access to your location data). The Mayhemic site has a workaround for this issue, as well as how to turn off geotagging photos in Google’s Android and Palm’s Web OS.