Tips to Turn Off Geo-Tagging on Your Cell Phone

Geo-tagged photos could unintentionally reveal private locations, personal info.

ByABC News
August 20, 2010, 12:34 PM

Aug. 20, 2010— -- Keeping tabs on your favorite celebrities might be easier than you think -- and much easier than they want. But they likely have no one to blame but themselves.

According to two teams of computer scientists, Hollywood stars could be unintentionally giving up the exact locations of their homes and private whereabouts through pictures uploaded to the Internet, leaving them wide open to attacks by tech-savvy thieves (not to mention unwanted visits by starstruck fans).

CLICK HERE to get some tips for disabling geotagging.

Most cameras and video recorders don't instantly attach location data (or geographic coordinates) to photos and videos. But some smartphones, such as the iPhone, automatically embed the user's latitude and longitude in each photo's metadata. It's possible to disable the function, but the researchers said many people don't even realize that they might need to.

The scientists say geotag data embedded in photos and videos that are uploaded to Twitter and other online sites often reveals location information that stars -- as well as the rest of us -- probably don't want to share.

"Many people are not aware of the fact that there are geotags in photos and videos," said Gerald Friedland, a computer scientist at the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, Calif. "If they are, they're most probably not aware of the consequences."

Using simple technology available online, Friedland said he and his colleague Robin Sommer were able to find the private home addresses of a Playboy playmate, a couple of TV hosts and a handful of other television personalities. Out of respect for their privacy, he declined to name the stars.

Ben Jackson and Larry Pesce, computer security experts in Massachusetts, said they were able to uncover location information in photos uploaded by William Shatner, M.C. Hammer, Weird Al Yankovic, Arnold Schwarzenegger and others.

"We have no problem with people posting this data online," said Jackson. "[But] most people don't even understand that they are posting this information online."