The topic of privacy (and security) is a huge one with respect to location-based services… case in point, this article which has been floating around for a week or so now! It got me thinking.. indeed, with so many GPS-enabled and location-aware devices on the market these days (all the new S60 devices, iPhone, blackberry etc…) and the love of mobile users for sharing their media with the World (flickr, youtube, mosh, jaiku, twitter, facebook, etc…) do mobile device users really have any idea what kind of information they are sharing?? I know myself I’ve shared information on my facebook that I never realized I was sharing – also receive info that I’m sure others aren’t aware that I’m seeing!
Using the previously mentioned article as an example though, are users really informed and aware what they are sharing when they upload and share photos from their cell phones? Geotagging is all the rage and there’s many tools around to help users add geo location to their photos (shozu, locr, zonetag, brightkyte etc…) and there’s numerous ways to embed your location information via social networks like Twitter and facebook (wehereyougonnabe, brighkyte, twitpic, sports tracker, gps twitter, twibble, etc…). Building on the example in the article, I did my own test the other day as I wandered around Flickr. Browsing a Flickr map in my region I easily viewed recently uploaded photos in my neighborhood – one can also do this on Google Maps viewing Panoramio images. One photo got my attention… it was a shot of 2 young women posing for a portrait. It turns out that it was captured by what seemed to be a pro photographer who had then uploaded the photograph to his own portfolio of work that he keep son flickr. Looking closer I noticed that he had also not only included locations (geotagging) with all his photos, but he also was sharing that information with the World – I wasn’t a contact, friend, or connection of his. With a click of the mouse I could see exactly where he captured the photograph of the two women – the location was a home in a residential neighborhood.Using other online search tools, local search, white pages, reverse geocoding etc… I’m sure I could have also easily determined the names, address and phone number of a girl in the photo… a bit disturbing, right??
So, you have to wonder, was the photographer aware that he was sharing location information via his flickr account? Was he aware that his photos were geo-tagged? Were the women aware that he was sharing the location where the phot was captured – likely a private residence? Geotagging technology is awesome, however, users of web services that take advantage of this information really need to be conscious of their account privacy settings and need to be aware of how to take control of their personal information.
In a timely manner, I also just stumbled onto details of this bill over on OpenCongress titled “Camera Phone Predator Alert Act” which will require mobile phones with cameras to make a sound when capturing a photo!