Monday, September 1, 2014

How To Remove The Security Risk In GPS Camera Phones

I received an email the other day from a guy who was scared by the privacy and security risk of GPS enabled cameras, primarily in cell phones.

He included a link to this ABC affiliate video where which they titled “Too Much Information”.

In the video they do a good job showing the risk of ‘GEO tagging’ your photos and uploading to online services such as Facebook. However, surprisingly, they tell you NOTHING about how to mitigate the risk other than to not upload photos from your GPS enabled phone or camera to the web!

They call that journalism? That’s just fear mongering.

I have a Droid X, and here is how I could (but I don’t) upload all the photos I want to the web WITHOUT any GEO tagging to give away my location or my daily routine.

First, start out by bringing up the camera on the Droid (lots of Android based phones should be similar to this). Then press the Menu Key.

droid-camera-turn-geo-tags-off-instructions-step-1

From there you should get a menu that looks something like this across your screen, tap ‘Tags’.

Then you can see what Tag settings are available. Geo Tags on my Droid X phone are controlled by the ‘Auto Location’ tag setting.

droid-camera-turn-geo-tags-off-instructions-step-2Here you can see that mine is turned off, the check is ‘grayed out’.

Here is another shot of what it would look like if Geo Tags were set to ‘on’. Notice the check mark in the box is a nice bright green.

droid-camera-turn-geo-tags-off-instructions-step-3You can simply touch the green check mark to toggle Geo tagging OFF.

Please note, though, that in order for your privacy to be compromised with Geo tags on your uploaded photos, the phone or camera must know where it is at. In order to do that, the GPS system needs to be turned on.

This next shot shows you my camera warning me that Geo Tagging or Auto Location Tags are on, but the phone does not have GPS Location enabled – in other words, the GPS system is off. I have it turned off to save battery life when I do not need it.

droid-camera-turn-geo-tags-off-instructions-step-4

Going back into settings gives you an additional ‘popup’ whereby you have to select OK to enable GPS Location or cancel out.

You can turn the GPS function on and off in your phones settings menu, but on the Android operating system there are a couple of nice screen widgets that will make toggling the GPS on and off a breeze.

gps-widget-shows-gps-location-is-not-enabled

You can see one of those widgets here, again noting that the GPS is off – securing your privacy regardless of the Geo Tag or Auto Location Tag setting.

gps-widget-shows-gps-location-is-not-enabled-2So there you have it.

Yes, Geo Tagging photos is a threat to your privacy and security should you go uploading photos or sharing them in some way.

But I think it is poor journalism to scare people with the threat of it and not tell them how they can still take and upload photos without revealing their location to the world.

I suspect an iPhone is similar with its camera and Geo Tagging capability, but I have yet to check it out personally.

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