Warning: Privacy, Smartphone Location Services, and Your Pictures

By on Jul 11, 2013

Note: Thanks to Steven Aronson of Aronson Insurance for bringing this information to my attention.

In the last six years, smartphones have become great, all around tools that have allowed us to combine multiple devices into one small, easy to carry combination tool. Oh, and it also allows you to make phone calls.

One of the devices the smartphone has replaced is the digital camera. Today, pictures are easy to take and even easier to post on many different platforms, including Facebook and Google+. And because of the GPS functions, your phone knows the exact latitude and longitude of where you took each picture. Many devices actually embed this geographic information into the meta data contained within the picture file.

And therein lays a possible problem. This 4 minute video of a news segment explains the problem and offers some solutions.

The privacy implications are that if you have your phone location information services turned on for your camera apps, when you post those pictures the location information can be embedded within the picture file. There are some situations where location information within photos can be quite helpful. For example, remembering six months later where you were when you took that picture.

However posting that information to a social platform may unwittingly expose unwanted geographic information about you and/or your family.

It is actually easy to manage these settings if you know how. Following are links to some of the more popular phone manufacturers’ support sites that offer detailed explanations on how to turn location services on and off for all the apps on your phone, not just the camera.

I’ve turned the location services off on my iPhone. If I want to have locations information included in a picture it’s easy to turn back on.

As always, please share any comments or suggestions below.


  1. With respect to an Apple iPhone, turning off Location Services completely will no longer enable you to locate your iPhone on a map with the “Find My iPhone” app included with IOS. To keep this function manually turn off all other apps that use Location Services. Location Service availability for Find My iPhone is on by default when the Locations Services feature is enabled. Please note that activating Location Services will cause your devices battery to deplete slightly faster.

    • Good point. That’s why I suggest turning location services on or off by application. There are some applications — like Find your Phone — that you would want to leave on.

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