Monday, June 10, 2013

Safely post your vacation photos while you're away, especially of your children

On VacationYou're away from home on a “trip of a lifetime,” or perhaps just an ordinary outing to the summer seashore, but whichever vacation you're on, you've decided to post some photos of it, showing how much fun you're having. For family vacations, you decide to post photos of your kids for their grandparents, and the rest of your family and friends, to see and enjoy.

So, you pull out your smartphone or camera, and get some great images of your family on vacation, having the time of their lives. You log into Twitter or your Facebook account or Flickr, or Smugmug, and upload the photos.

“Does that make sense?”
“Is it safe to post vacation photos, which may include your children, to the Internet, while on vacation?”
Many people still don't understand that “www,” ie. “World Wide Web” really means it's all over the world. What's posted on the “web” is posted for the world to see, unless precautions are taken. Privacy, doesn't exist when we tell all on social media websites like Facebook, and post personal photographs in publicly accessible galleries.

Just a year ago, Consumer Reports published their study, “Facebook & Your Privacy” in which they note about Facebook's more than 150 million American users:
“Almost 13 million users said they had never set, or didn’t know about, Facebook’s privacy tools. And 28 percent shared all, or almost all, of their wall posts with an audience wider than just their friends.”
Those statistics were shocking to me, because by default, Facebook, shares your posts and images with everyone in the world.

Are you one of those Facebook or other social media users who share their data with more than your friends, possibly everyone? Do you allow anyone, even people you don't know personally to be among your Facebook friends?

As Consumer Reports illuminates in their study, are you aware that “even if you have restricted your information to be seen by friends only, a friend who is using a Facebook app could allow your data to be transferred to a third party without your knowledge?”

Posting images of your vacation, on Facebook, or other social media sites, or publicly accessible galleries, without strictly controlling your privacy settings to limit their audience, while you are vacationing, can have disastrous effects.

Simply put, by posting your vacation images for the world to see, while you're away, you're announcing to the world your home is empty, ready to be picked clean. Especially, if you're a long way from home, posting photos of you and your family having a great time, noting your location, tells robbers they will be safe from your immediate return home, while they clean your house out of your most valuable and cherished possessions.

Another issue with posting vacation images on the Internet in the 21st century, is that many photos are geotagged. When images are geotagged, they minimally have embedded within them the precise latitude and longitude of the camera, when the image was made. With those geotags someone looking at the images can place each one on a map, generally within a few yards or meters, of where you stood to make the photo.

Generally, all smartphones, these days, have a quality GPS receiver, and use it to geotag every photo you take with them, unless you turn that function off. Mainstream digital cameras are beginning to have geotag functionality too. I personally geotag virtually all my travel photos, to at the least, help me identify what's in the photograph when I process them. Most social media sites are geotag enabled, so that they can display exactly where your photo was taken. In fact, along with many gallery sites, they can literally map where your photos were taken. Flickr and Smugmug both make good use of geotag based maps.

If you couple your vacation photos, with some geotagged images taken around your home, so the world both knows you're away, and the precise location of your home, it's almost as if you're inviting in burglars. Add in the names of your children tagged to your vacation photos, even if you normally avoid that when you're home, and the world now is able to determine more and more about your family every time you post.

So what do I recommend?
  1. Check your social media privacy settings. Make sure you know who will be seeing your vacation and home images. Never publish images of your home, or your children, or their friend's and their homes, or where they play, etc. for anyone to view but real friends and family.
  2. Only have friends you personally know, plus family, as your social media friends, if you plan to use it to show off your vacation images.
  3. Don't let your smartphone's social media apps use your smartphone's location (GPS) services.
  4. While traveling, post your vacation images to your online gallery only to password protected, private galleries, which are accessible only to your real friends and family.
  5. Don't geotag any images you take at or near home, work, your children's school, their friends' homes, etc. Don't give away the location of your home, where you work, or anywhere your kids go in your home area.
  6. Don't add the names of your children to any of your photos at any time. Your family and friends don't need help identifying them.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I never knew about the geotagging. I checked my home photos and I'm broadcasting where it is to everyone.

Robert from Horsham PA said...

Thanks for the great information. I'll have to be careful with my new camera.

Harris - Richmond said...

I was shocked reading your article this morning. I had no idea I was broadcasting the home location of my grand children. I'm pulling the photos from my galleries this morning.

Ned, is there some way I can easily remove the location data from my photos?

Ned S. Levi said...

Harris, do you use a Windows or Mac computer?

Warren - London UK said...

Great article, like the others I had no idea the geotagging was going on.

Harris - Richmond said...

I'm using Windows Ned.

Ned S. Levi said...

Harris, the quick easy way is to use Windows Explorer to strip the personal data from your photos.

Find the photo in Windows Explorer and right click. Choose properties. Click on the Details tab. In the window you'll see a link to "Remove Properties and Personal Information." Click on it and you'll get a new window.

You'll have two choices: Create a copy of the photo with all possible properties removed, or Remove the following properties from this file.

If you want to have a cleaned copy of the image for posting, then choose create a copy, and click OK. You preserve the original and have a clean copy for posting.

If you don't want your original to have specific information in it, use that choice and click on the check boxes for the information you want stripped, then click OK.

Mario - Roma said...

Unbelievable about the Geotagging. I've got to be more careful!!!!!!!

Harris - Richmond said...

Thanks Ned. I'll try it out tonight.

Pat - San Diego said...

I never had any idea of these things. Thanks for the great article.

Marsha - LA said...

Amazing. I never thought about how posting geotagged photos might be a problem. Thanks.

Sally - Ann Arbor said...

That's amazing about geotags. I had no idea. I'm another one who's going to strip the info from my grandkids' photos. Thanks Ned.

Bert - Plains said...

I just deleted all my photos of the family in our gallery. I'm going to strip the geotags then repost.

Thanks for the great article.

Edward - LA said...

Ned, thanks for the great article. I had no idea geotagging might pose a security risk to my family.

You don't have to answer, but who's the beautiful blond in the photo feeding the giraffe? I assume you have a release and know who she is, or not?

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