Google defines the word ‘geotag’ as “an electronic tag that assigns a geographical location to a photograph or video, a posting on a social media website, etc.”
In other words, any time you add a location to a social media post you’ve created a geotag.
You’ve essentially marked your presence at a geographical location on a specific date at a specific time.
For many of us, location tagging is the norm. As a part of sharing a picture or a thought or an event, we add a location so our friends and loved ones can more fully experience what we are experiencing. On the surface it’s an awesome feature of the digital world and more fully brings others into our lives.
Below the surface, however, location tagging can cause serious issues in regard to physical safety, online abuse, and identity theft.
Take your morning (or afternoon) jog, for example. If you take your phone with you (as many of us do) and like to post pictures from your favorite spots along your normal route (parks, bridges, beaches, coffee shops, etc.) you could be purposely (through geotags) or inadvertently (landmarks, coffee shop signs) sharing your physical location with an entire world of people online,
The danger here is twofold:
- Your physical safety could be at risk if someone uses these locations to seek you out: Say someone gets too aggressive and shows up at one of these place. Or a thief uses this information to discover your routine and then knows the appropriate time to rob your home.
- This location data can be used to put together a social profile on you: A report published by Columbia University and Google states, “geotagged posts on just two social media apps was enough to link various accounts held by the same person”.
In other words, geotags don’t simply stay on one particular app. With only a quick search a multitude of information about you can be discovered and used to create a very specific profile of who you are. And this profile can lead to identity theft, fraud, or further cyber abuse.
Leading one to wonder, is location tagging really worth the risk to your physical and digital safety?