Location data

Here's a security and privacy tip that many of us forget about, yet is really easy to manage -- geo-location data in the pictures you take with your Android phone. Modern digital cameras that have a way to capture GPS data (that means your Android phone or tablet) can attach location data to pictures using the Exif (Exchangeable image file format) standard. The Exif standard attaches metadata tags to pictures, sounds, and video to keep track of things like song titles, video length, and camera model. It also has a slot for latitude and longitude coordinates from your GPS receiver. 

Attaching GPS metadata to the pictures you take can be handy, and there are reasons people would want to do it. Having the date, time and location embedded in a picture means never forgetting where and when you took it, and you can use services like Panoramio to place your pictures on a map overlay. Having a location fixed to an image has many legitimate, and fun, uses.

But many times we don't want someone else to know the precise GPS location of a picture we've taken. "Little Timmy's first day at summer camp" would make a great picture to share on Facebook or Google+, but do we want some stranger to know where little Timmy is sleeping this week? It's a scary world out there, full of people with bad intentions. Nobody will blame you if you err on the side of caution.

It matters, because it's not just apps that can access this data. Download a picture from your (or a friends) online albums somewhere. After you have it saved, right click it (Windows) and look at all the properties. If the picture is geo-tagged, you'll get GPS coordinates within a few feet of where the camera was when it was taken. There are even programs and websites that spit out the location data of images, and not everyone who uses these can be trusted. Thankfully, turning location tagging on and off is really easy.

You'll find a spot in the settings of your camera app (stock or a custom app from the Google Play store) that will say location or geo-tag. Poke around a bit, it's in different places depending on your phone's firmware or the app you're using, but it's there. When that setting is on, your GPS will turn on and the coordinates will be saved with the image data. When it's off, neither will happen.

Take control of these sorts of settings, and keep yourself safer on the Internet.