Pictures taken with a GPS-enabled device can give up your location, as the recent arrest of John McAfee showed. But turning off the function is not hard.
Security experts have been warning about the potential risks of geotags for a couple years now. For instance, a photo taken by a U.S. soldier on his or her smart phone could potentially reveal location information and endanger the mission. While this feature does occasionally catch a criminal, the risk to military and government personnel working abroad, or anyone whose location could be considered confidential, is too great to ignore.
The arrest of fugitive John McAfee and the revelation that his location had been given up by the geotagging feature on a smart phone might get users wondering if this feature is tagging things they do on their own phones. And, unless they’ve changed any settings, the answer is likely to be “yes.”
“So, how do I turn this feature off?” you ask. Good question. Here are the steps to disable geotagging for the four major mobile operating systems. Note that manufacturer websites are largely silent on this issue; these tips are pulled from user experience, community blogs and how-to websites.
Android 4.2 phones
- Start camera application
- Hit the Settings button
- Scroll down and find the GPS Tag option and turn it off
In older versions, the option may be called “Store Location,” but is it essentially the same process.
BlackBerry 6.0 and 7.0
RIM suggests through the online documentation that disabling geotagging be done on BlackBerry Enterprise Server, which would work from an admin’s point of view if an agency uses BES. If not, to turn the setting off on an individual BlackBerry phone:
- Open Camera
- Set the Location icon to “Disabled”
For some earlier versions, hit the Menu and Option buttons before changing the setting.
iPhone 4 and 5
- Go to Settings
- Select General
- Select Location Services
- Set Camera to “Off”
For older versions users can’t really turn off geotagging for the camera without disabling it for all applications. But location warnings can be set to go off when an application is using them.
Windows Phone 7 and 8
- Go to Settings
- Navigate to Applications
- Scroll down to Pictures & Camera
- Set “include location (GPS) info in Pictures you take” to “Off”