Geotagged — you're it!

Location-aware apps on smart phones can help, but they can also hurt

Location-aware devices, such as smart phones, can literally be life-savers. Using Global Positioning System technology to accurately locate a device that is used to make a 911 call can help emergency responders find a caller. But the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse points out that they also can share more information than you might realize.

Geotagging is the ability to include location data on information gathered by or created on a smart device. The data could be included on photos, messages or other media. It might not always be visible to the user, but it might be available to third parties, including application providers. It could be used to track whereabouts for any number of legitimate or illegitimate purposes. Advertisers, criminals and police officers might all be able to access the data to track movements.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse recommends the restriction of geotagging by turning off location services on your smart phone and in third-party applications. At the very least, be aware of what information is being gathered so that you can make an informed decision on whether to enable it.

It might be nice to let your friends know where you are or convenient to be able to find the nearest Starbucks, but consider who else might be able to see and use that data.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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