Digital camera plus GPS = Flickr mapping heaven?

I’ve stumbled across a few blog posts extolling the virtues of having a GPS-enabled digital camera. For example:

My wife doesn’t want to have to carry around two bulky devices and greatly extend the already considerable time it takes her to get photos online by manually tagging photos with lat-long, she just wants to be able to find all the 2004 photos of the kids in New Zealand in one quick search.

Yep, that is a cool benefit of having locational data automatically attached to the photos that we post and share online. Of course, this also allows the following to occur:

  • Law enforcement can search for all photos online matching the GPS coordinates & timing of a certain political rally, greatly broadening their ability to keep records of who was present.
  • Combined with the increasing use of facial recognition technologies with shared online photos, stalkers (or other annoying folks) can search for a certain person’s face, and determine the GPS coordinates of the coffee shop they seem to be pictured in every Tuesday morning.

You get the idea….

UPDATE: Privacy Digest picked up this post, adding the comment that “This would be one of those Good News / Bad news situations. As a first step I hope they make the logging (and loading/displaying) of the GPS data controllable by the individual picture taker.”Agreed. One of my largest concerns with the widespread proliferation of meta-data inspired by “Web 2.0” apps is ensuring informed consent by the users of these services. In this particular case, users must (a) be told that GPS information can be collected, (b) have the option to turn the service on (off should be the default), (c) control whether anyone else can access this data once uploaded with a photo to sites like Flickr (no access should be the default), and (d) determine the levels of access (the general public or only selected users).


  1. Pingback: Privacy Digest: Privacy News (Civil Rights, Encryption, Free Speech, Cryptography)

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