Image via CrunchBase
When Adam Savage, host of the popular science program “MythBusters,” posted a picture on Twitter of his automobile parked in front of his house, he let his fans know much more than that he drove a Toyota Land Cruiser.
Embedded in the image was a geotag, a bit of data providing the longitude and latitude of where the photo was taken. Hence, he revealed exactly where he lived. And since the accompanying text was “Now it’s off to work,” potential thieves knew he would not be at home.
The problem with idiot proofing is that idiots accidentally defeat it. I don’t mean this in an offensive way, it is just an article of faith to those of us that build things, be it software, electronics, whatever.
If there is a right way and a wrong way to use X, it doesn’t matter how many protections you put into place, how many disclaimers you put in the packaging and the manual, etc., people will still end up using it the wrong way, completely by accident.
This is how people still manage to shoot themselves with guns that are designed to not fire accidentally. Shit just happens.
That said, the level of idiot proofing for geotagging functionality seems to be adequate. None of the photo services I have tried online renders geotags by default. They read them, sure, but you need to turn on the location services. Every phone I have used with either GPS, or cell tower-based location, asked me if I wanted my location to be known. Yes, this includes two iPhones, three Blackberry Curves and one LG Rumor Touch. They all ask you about this.
The problem is that in most cases you can default the service to be on at all times, and then you will forget to turn it off, which is what happened to Adam Savage. You may think this is harmless, but think about it the next time you post photos of your kid’s school functions online, and think who you want to know where your kids go to school to. Or that they always go to the same Burger King, etc.
- The Hidden Security Risk of Geotags (it.slashdot.org)
- Geo-tags reveal celeb secrets (newscientist.com)
- Researchers Warn of Geotagging Dangers – Are You Concerned? (readwriteweb.com)
- Applied Geotagging: Where Locals And Tourists Shoot Pictures (crunchgear.com)