Here's an article that I wrote on the topic:
Social Mapping, Location Sharing, and Geo-tagging:l
Mapping and Location Sharing
With the increase use of smartphones that utilize global positioning satellites (GPS), companies are now utilizing this technology to create social mapping and location sharing programs that are becoming very popular with our youth. This technology cannot only keep users in contact with one another, but it can also link them to “real time” specific geographical locations. According to a 2010 study by McAfee, 69% of youth between the ages of 13-17 have included their physical location in their social networking status update. Some of the more popular social mapping and location sharing programs being utilized by our youth include:
• Facebook’s Places
Many of these social mapping programs also allow you to link with other social networks, such as Facebook, which can then allow you to import your “friends” list quickly and seamlessly so as to keep them updated as to your location. Although many of these social mapping and location sharing applications allow the user to set their privacy settings, which allow them to block their locations from anyone else but their friends, many of our youth do not take advantage of this safety/security function.
So why should we as parents be paying attention to social mapping and location sharing programs ??????, because any youth who has one of these programs installed on their smartphone that utilizes GPS technology, can use this application to broadcast their current physical location to ANYONE who they have “friended”, especially if their privacy settings are not in place. From a safety and security standpoint, why would we want our children to be sending out information as to where they can be located? Also of concern is that businesses are now tapping into this technology to target users with ads and incentives, to visit their business, so that when a user is in close proximity, it will immediately send a message or advertisement to the owner’s phone to attend the store and receive a discount on specific merchandise.
Another challenge however, is that some of these social mapping and location sharing programs are actually games that reward youth with “virtual badges” for locating specific geo-tagged location, which is kind of like a cyber treasure hunt. As one can appreciate, this becomes very attractive to a youth who is looking for things to do with their friends.
So what can parents do:
• Don’t let younger children partake in these social mapping and location sharing programs.
• Ensure that older children have their privacy setting in these programs up and running.
• Ensure that they only allow those people who they know, and who they have met face to face, to have access to their location in these programs.
• Ultimately remember that even if the privacy settings are set to the highest standard, one of their friends could still pass onto others your child’s current location.
All smartphones, such as the iPhone or Blackberry, or any other phone that has a GPS capability, can automatically geo-tags any picture/video that may have been taken with that phone. This geo-tag contains something called metadata which records both the longitude and latitude of where that picture/video was taken, which can then be easily obtained and copied from the picture’s “properties” tab. Once this longitude and latitude information has been harvested, it can then be pasted into Google Street Maps and bingo, the location of where that picture was taken can be narrowed down to within about 100 meters.
So why is this information important ?????, if you are a person who shares your smartphone pictures/video’s on-line via Facebook, Twitter, a talk forum, a dating site or other similar services, then you are potentially exposing where you might live (if the pictures were taken at home) or locations that you may frequent, making it easier for someone, known or unknown, to locate you.
What is important for everyone who owns a smartphone to know, especially our youth, is that you can change the settings of your phone so that it does not geo-tag the picture/video taken. As an example we have an iPhone and here’s what we did:
• Go to settings
• Click the “general” tab
• Click on “Location Services”
• Slide the button next to the camera function to “off”
The above noted steps can also be accomplished with other smart phones.