Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Online photos often give away your location.

Koeppen: Easy to tracked you via phone pics; Also, how to change your settings to avoid this data collection
(CBS News)  If you're one of the millions of smartphone users who post pictures online, you may be putting up more than you think. There's more than meets the eye with photo uploads.

With the touch of a button, you can show the world your photos. However, you can also reveal information you may not want to share - like the exact location of where you live, work, play and go on vacation.
On "The Early Show" Thursday, CBS News Consumer Correspondent Susan Koeppen reported there are more than 100 billion photos -- of kids and pets, vacations, graduations, etc. -- currently posted online, with thousands more being uploaded every minute.
But what you see online is only half the story. Tech expert John Rettinger, president of Techno Buffalo, a tech news website, points out most smartphones have a GPS chip built into them. So when you're taking a picture, it actually takes your location and stores it on that photo.
Rettinger says the same technology that helps people see real-time traffic updates and find directions on their phones also leads to GPS coordinates being attached to pictures.
Not only can you know exactly what was taken, you know exactly the time that the picture was shot, Rettinger said.
Koeppen said all it takes to find someone's location based solely on a picture is the right computer program, and just a couple of minutes.
 How easy is it to do this?
"Extremely easy," Rettinger said. "If you know where to look, it's one button to hit download and you are done."
Koeppen decided to see just how easy it really is. A producer took pictures of just her face at several locations around Los Angeles. They posted them on my Koeppen's Twitter account, and asked Rettinger to figure out where she was.
Within seconds, Rettinger told Koeppen she was shopping on Rodeo Drive, at Griffith Park and Grauman's Chinese Theater. Just by right-clicking on all of the photos, Rettinger was able to pinpoint her exact locations using GPS coordinates.
With more than 70 million Americans currently using smartphones, smartphone tracking has become a hot-button issue. Just this month, executives from Apple and Google were questioned about it on Capitol Hill. But the good news for smartphone users is you can turn off the location of your pictures by adjusting the settings on your phone by turning off the location of your pictures.
Rettinger said, "Oftentimes you just go to settings and it says geolocation and you switch it off. That's all you need to do.
Koeppen added on "The Early Show," "And it's interesting to note that our expert had never tried to read the location of a picture before but he said it took him a total of 10 minutes to get the right program off the internet, and then learn how to do it. And once we posted our pictures, it took them less than 30 seconds per picture to find my locations."
Co-anchor Erica Hill said, "That's just creepy to just one word to describe it. We saw briefly in your piece the expert was showing us how to turn off these settings so people can't figure out where you are."
Koeppen said, "So we used an iPhone to take our pictures. What you're going to do is find settings, go to settings, then go to general. Then you're going to find location services. And where it says camera you just want to have it turned to 'off.'"