Okay, Faithful Readers.  I'm listening to an instructional video on using PaintShop Pro, and the instructor interrupts his teaching to give a lecture on how important it is NOT to geotag any photos in or near your home, because "you don't want other people to be able to find out where you live.  It's not safe."  Huh?  Has he never heard of a telephone book?  And now with the Internet it's ridiculously easy to find out that kind of information.  Where you live.  What taxes you pay.  What you paid for your house.  Your birthday.  Your family members.  Your political donations.  If you're lucky enough to be a state employee in Florida, your salary.  Google will even show you the flowers in my front yard—at least what they looked like at some point in the past.  So what if someone can tell from my photograph where it was taken?  If anyone wants to do something nefarious, they have plenty of other resources.

I find the feature on my camera that detects and saves location data to be extremely useful.  I'm undertaking the incredibly, ridiculously challenging project of organizing many years' worth of photographs, and the only thing that annoys me about embedded GPS data is that it's not available on most of my photos.  Even my phone camera, which is the first I've had with GPS information, only began recording that data once I found and enabled the feature.

Privacy has always been very important to me.  This may seem odd coming from someone who writes a blog that is shared with the world, but I still consider myself a private person.  "Private" doesn't mean I don't share, any more than "introvert" means I don't like people.  To me, it means (1) I choose what I share and with whom, and (2) I accept that some things are going to be available to others whether I choose to share them or not.  In facing the latter case, I have come to realize that I can either shrink back in fear, or I can accept the small additional risk for the sake of the benefits that have come with new technology and new situations.

My blog audience my not be large, but I know it's diverse, with people everywhere on the privacy spectrum.  So I'll ask:  What's your take on geocoded photos?  Do you use that feature?  If you don't, is it because you don't find a need for it, or because, like my photo software instructor, you think it's dangerous?  If you are worried about safety, what advantage do you think it gives criminals that they couldn't easily get elsewhere?

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 7:47 am | Edit
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I love having location data on my photos; I also collect other metadata such as who is pictured. I like this feature so much that it's lack is one of the things keeping me from buying a new (non-phone) camera.

Once in a while when I'm sharing a photo publicly in a different context I'll remove the metadata first.

If you really want to keep your identity secret, it might be possible, but it's difficult. It requires constant vigilance and avoidance of a lot of useful technologies. One mistake and your cover is blown. For most people it's just not worth trying.

Posted by Peter V on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 11:53 am

Thanks, Peter.

Posted by SursumCorda on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Sounds great. Wish I could use the technology. Anything to make photo organization easier.

Posted by Janet on Wednesday, September 30, 2015 at 12:40 pm

As you point out, geocoded photographs can be an excellent and useful feature.

The majority of my photographs are taken away from home during vacations, camping and road trips. A record my travels and a form of artistic self-expression, I consider the timestamp and location data as important to my photographs as the title and descriptions I write, anchoring them in both time and space. As such, I spend the time adding GPS coordinates manually after the fact.

That said, I have chosen not to include specific location information on pictures taken at home as there is no historic or artistic value including it on these pictures. My address is surely out there, but I rent and have a mailing address so its visibility is minimized. There just seems to be no point in advertising it.

The chances are quite remote that a robber would be watching my website or Twitter account for signs that I was away and — having my address from a geocoded photograph — plan that time to break in and steal my things. For someone to invest that amount of time and effort, they surely would be better off robbing someone more affluent. It just does not strike me as a plausible scenario.

The dangers of geocoded photography are probably overstated. Anyone with personal circumstances increasing this danger (e.g., having a stalker) are wise not to publish anything whatsoever, geocoded or otherwise. For the rest of us, it probably does not matter. There are plenty of other resources that take less effort and anyone with an evil goal will proceed regardless.

Posted by David July on Friday, October 02, 2015 at 12:12 am
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