Most are unaware of invasive geotagging

Several students release vital information about themselves without considering what they’re sharing with the virtual public. While some view geotagging as a privacy issue, others are unaware that they even have access to it.

Geotagging is the process of adding geographical identification metadata to various media such as photographs, video, websites, SMS messages, or RSS feeds. It’s a type of geospatial metadata.

Director of Technology Information Shawn Kung believes that it is an interesting yet ambiguous tool.

“For the people who use geotagging, the benefits are clear: Now I know this place is located at this specific location. Wow, that looks fun or pretty or interesting,” he said. “However, because of the non-obtrusive nature of geotagging, most people are completely ignorant of its prevalence.”

Photo Illustration by Chelesea Carter

Photo Illustration by Chelesea Carter

Many students are unfamiliar with the term geotagging, which can be an issue. Being left in the dark about this application could cause people to release information about themselves without knowledge of it becoming public.

Kung described how this ignorance of geotagging affects those with  certain phones.

“Most of the smart phones available today are GPS enabled. Many automatically geotag all the pictures taken with that device,” he said. “Some phones do not even give the user any hint that the pictures are being tagged.”

Though most students do not recognize the term geotagging, light bulbs went off at the mention of Facebook and tagging friends in posts and pictures.

Junior exercise sport major Elbe Vargas discussed his awareness about the concerns involved in tagging friends on Facebook.

“I think it can be a privacy issue obviously … because you’re telling everybody where you’re at,” he said. “I think a lot of people don’t realize it when they do it, though.”

For the most part, Vargas believes geotagging is a great tool. He chatted about his amusing experiences with it.

“I did it just to do it because it was fun,” he said. “I was eating some chicken and I put up I was at Bush’s Chicken with my friends.”

Vargas assured people that they can remove themselves from tags if they are concerned about their whereabouts being exposed. He described a situation where he tagged a friend at the mall who untagged himself because he did not want his whereabouts known.

Furthermore, tagging has not always been the thing to do.

When Facebook first included this tool in the fall of 2010, it caused uproar among individuals seeking privacy. Many people notified their friends through e-mails about the dangers of geotagging and how it threatens personal safety.

Kung revealed he has not had any dangerous encounters with geotagging. He explained his view on this matter of personal security.

“While it is true that geotagging does leak information about the individual, especially if the picture is posted on the Internet, it would take a very determined criminal to use this information maliciously,” he said.

Sophomore computer graphics design major Stephen Webster doesn’t have a problem with geotagging, but is concerned because no one knows much about it.

“The developers should be more careful or think about the potential risks of features that automatically go into effect because a lot of people don’t know the risks,” he said.

Technology is vital, but Webster said, “Just because something’s useful doesn’t mean its not dangerous.”

To solve the problem, smart phone users can disable their GPS under the settings in their phone. More specific directions can be found online.

Nevertheless, Kung believes that geotagging brings about deep security questions.

He said, “To put it bluntly, soccer moms probably have nothing to fear from geotagging, whilst those in the federal witness protection program should probably shy away from it. Then again, they should probably not post pictures on Facebook at all.”

Author: Chelesea Carter

Chelesea Carter is a senior English major minoring in writing at UMHB. She is an assistant page editor for The Bells newspaper. Though she came from the small town of Caldwell, Texas, she spent most of her teenage years in Aggieland. Chelesea enjoys baking delicious goodies, reading novels and discovering new things about others. Writing about social issues allows Chelesea to share her compassion for helping others. Her life-long goal is to improve the desolate state of the world.

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