U.S. Army Warns Soldiers, Families: "Geotagging Poses Security Risks"
Some of the info and examples in the article can also be of value to those of you who provide social media training and instruction.
“Is a badge on Foursquare worth your life?”
The question was posed by Brittany Brown, social media manager of the Online and Social Media Division at the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs. It may sound outlandish, but in the age of social geotagging, it can be a reality.
There are a number of location-based social media applications and platforms, including Foursquare, Gowalla, SCVNGR, Shopkick, Loopt and Whrrl, currently on the market. They use GPS features, typically in the user’s phone, to publish the person’s location and offer rewards in the form of discounts, badges or points to encourage frequent check-ins.
Someone with the right software and the wrong motivation could download the photo and extract the coordinates from the metadata.
Warren cited a real-world example from 2007. When a new fleet of helicopters arrived with an aviation unit at a base in Iraq, some Soldiers took pictures on the flightline, he said. From the photos that were uploaded to the Internet, the enemy was able to determine the exact location of the helicopters inside the compound and conduct a mortar attack, destroying four of the AH-64 Apaches.
Staff Sgt. Dale Sweetnam, of the Online and Social Media Division, said geotagging is of particular concern for deployed Soldiers and those in transit to a mission.
While especially relevant for those in the military, cautions about geotagging extend to anyone who uses that feature.
Facebook is in the process of rolling out Timeline, a new layout that includes a map tab of all the locations a user has tagged.
“Timeline presents some unique security challenges for users who tag location to posts,” Sweetnam said.
“Some of those individuals have hundreds of ‘friends’ they may never have actually met in person, he explained. “By looking at someone’s map tab on Facebook, you can see everywhere they’ve tagged a location. You can see the restaurants they frequent, the gym they go to everyday, even the street they live on if they’re tagging photos of their home. Honestly, it’s pretty scary how much an acquaintance that becomes a Facebook ‘friend’ can find out about your routines and habits if you’re always tagging location to your posts.”
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Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.