Geotagging Crime: “It Is Only a Matter of Time”

GPS-enabled phones make it easy for anyone to track you

Getting in touch these days is far different than years ago when it took some paperwork. Nowadays, Facebook could be called the new "Yellow Pages." With just a click, you can move a photo from your real life to your virtual one.

But thanks to GPS-enabled phones, that photo may also include your location.

All cell phones made after 2005 are required by law to have GPS technology. Geotags are a GPS stamp that smartphones, such as the Blackberry and iPhone, encode on photos taken by the device.

"I am prepared for that. You know, nowadays, people are going to know your information immediately," said model and actress Leila Arceiri, who lives in LA.
 
Arceiri says she's turned off the geotagging feature on her phone.

Information security specialist Ben Jackson says other users may want to consider the same precaution.

"When you start to look at someone's geotags over a period of time ... you can start to tell where people live and where they work," Jackson said.

Jackson's website, icanstalku.com, puts his warning in perspective. The site is dedicated to "raising awareness about inadvertent information sharing."

Jonathan Fairtlough, a founding member of the LA County District Attorney's high-tech crime division, says geotagging has pros and cons.
 
"Having GPS on your cell phone is an amazing feature. ...It allows you to reach law enforcement if you are at risk," Fairtlough said. "If you are taking a photograph that could identify your home or you, then you need to think about how your going to post that and how you're going to use it."

Fairtlough says the DA's office is not aware of any crimes it has prosecuted stemming from geotagging -- but he admits, "it is only a matter of time." 

Droids come with geotagging automatically turned off, while iPhones and iPads are automatically on. There are a variety of guides online showing how to disable the feature for various phones:

Contact Us