Geotagging on Social Media Networks–A Hidden Threat

By Alan Morales, WTC Stratcom

As easy as it is to update your Facebook© status, you may be exposing yourself to a substantial amount of risk. Social media makes it easy to share information, but what about information you would never want to share publicly? Geotagging is one social media technology that shares information you may be unaware about.

Digital photos are embedded with information. Similar to a date and time stamp on your 3x5” photographs, digital photos store data about when and more importantly where your photos were taken. In return, this data can be retrieved by social media websites and applications to share with the public. This is called geotagging.

For example, the Google© search engine I use practically every day can link photos posted online on various websites to its Google© Maps online application–revealing the location of where these photos were taken for anyone to see. By posting these online, you may be sharing your home address with a few million of your not-so-closest friends.

Depending on your privacy settings, geotagging may be active on your social media profiles. Websites that can geotag include:

  • Twitpic™
  • Flickr©
  • Various other photosharing applications

Why is this trend such a big deal? Geotagging poses an operational security risk to military operations. Soldiers who post photos online may be compromising critical data about operations in theater. Additionally, geotagging also poses an equally as damaging risk to those stateside who may not even be active duty or military at all. For these individuals, their frequented locations may become revealed to the general public every time they post a photo online. 

In order to address this issue, the U.S. Army Office of the Chief of Public Affairs posted a geotagging and location-based networking presentation online that explains how to adjust privacy settings on social media profiles to avoid geotagging. In addition, this presentation provides an in-depth description about how GPS technology, similar to geotagging, poses additional risks for social media users.

I highly recommend taking a look at this presentation and sharing it with others in our wounded warrior community. Whether you are an AW2 Soldier, Veteran, or Family member, these best practices can help prevent damaging consequences that may affect you and your loved ones while keeping social media the way it should be, fun.

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  • Dan

    Geotags and other metadata can be removed with metadata removers like the BatchPurifier LITE.

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