Geotags, Geolocation and EXIF Data – What Parents Need To Know

iphoneThe location data on your child’s cell phone could be putting him at risk. It could also put you at risk.

You or your children could be travelling the internet, or travelling the world with internet in hand, and leaving clues as to your location and not even know about it. Even if you do know about it, there may be risks that you haven’t considered, especially in the case of younger internet users.

First, a couple of definitions:

Metadata – data that provides information about other data, such as internet content

Geotag – Metadata added to pictures or other media that allows one to identify the location of said media

Geolocation – Identification of the real-world geographic location of an object using radar, a computer or mobile device via the internet

Check-in – a convention that allows social media users to inform other users of their location

In the case of check-ins, as users can do with Foursquare or Facebook and other apps or social networks, doing so alerts others as to your exact location. If your account is private, only your friends can see your location. If your account is public, anyone can see your location. Parents of younger users need to pay attention to both privacy settings and location data.

The most common places that location data is stored and potentially displayed, other than check-in platforms, are on photos taken with a digital camera or smartphone. The metadata is in the form of Exchangable Image File Format (EXIF) data.

If you take a photo with a digital camera and post it to the web using a photo sharing application or social network (Instagram, Flickr, Twitter…) or take one with a smartphone, the EXIF data you should be concerned with includes the GPS location of where the photo was taken and the date and time taken.

The main consideration for parents with respect to Geolocation data is predator risk. If your young son or daughter takes and posts an Instagram picture, for example, every Saturday morning at 9:00 AM at the same pace, do you really want a predator having that information?

iPhone-settingsTo disable the smartphone setting that automatically records EXIF data, take the following steps:

  • For an iPhone, go to Settings>General>Reset>Reset Location & Privacy
  • For most Android phones, go to Camera>Settings>settings>GPS off

We’ve previously discussed how Instagram Geotags Pose a Risk for Teens, and here are instructions for how to turn off geotags on Flickr. If you want to remove EXIF data from all pictures you’re taken in the past that are stored on your computer or device, here is a handy guide from

The list of potential risks for young internet and smartphone users is getting bigger all the time. If you’re a parent, let us know if we can lend a hand with anything.


Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.

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