Pros and Cons of Geotagging

[ˈdʒiːəʊ-tæg‐ɪŋ]- noun, verb

1. The addition of geographical location data to mixed media such as photos, video, tweets or social media status updates.
2. The last surrender of privacy by telling the whole world where you are and where you are not at any given time. Particularly loved by stalkers and robbers.

Before the days of mobile phones we were always struggling to tell people where we were or trying to arrange to meet up. This is now easy thanks to technology and mobile phones. It’s even now reached ridiculous levels thanks to geotagging, the act of adding location data to everything you do. As if it wasn’t enough telling everyone around the world via Facebook and Twitter what you are having for lunch you can now tell them where you are having it too.

  • Giving out live information of your whereabouts is like broadcasting to burglars that you’re not at home
  • You have to be careful about checking in to places if you have told little white lies to other people about not feeling well enough to go out
  • Unbeknownst to many people, geotagging info is automatically hidden inside photos taken with devices such as the iPhone camera
  • Sadly we all know that paeodophiles are very internet-savvy and geotagged photos of children can help them build up maps of children’s movements
  • Celebrities taking geotagged photos at home have unwittingly given away their home addresses

It’s not all bad news though. Far from it. The technology is great, but is just being misused and misunderstood by many people. Geotagging can be switched off or customised. Arguably it should be opt-in in the first place. Sites like are trying to raise awareness about inadvertent information sharing and helping educate people about how to gain control of their personal location info. On an iPhone it’s easy to switch geotagging off on the camera. You just need to know how to do it. And if you are aware of your location data and are using it wisely there are many advantages of geotagging.

  • Sharing locations with specific friends (such as with Path) to help meet up at concerts or festivals for example
  • Documenting holidays by having your holiday photos arranged by location or uploaded to Google Maps automatically
  • Aiding disaster recovery teams
  • Sophisticated augmented reality apps

One of the biggest ways in which geotagging is currently being pushed is for location based marketing. This started off with companies such as Starbucks offering free coffee to people who became Mayor of their coffee shop on FourSquare or Gowalla. Now you can get push notifications from high street stores when you check-in somewhere nearby. With the advent of Facebook Places, and all the personal data that Facebook stores about individuals, you can bet that soon you will be receiving more and more accurately targeted marketing notifications. If you list photography as your main hobby on Facebook then you will probably be told of camera offers whenever you are near a photography shop. And because they will have access to your trends over time it will help the adverts be more refined to your movements and habits and also provide ads over mixed media depending on your tastes.

I feel that the marketing aspect of geotagging is on the cusp of either becoming very efficient in terms of only giving us adverts we want to see, or becoming very annoying and bombarding us everywhere we go with personalised ads like in Minority Report. We shall see which way it goes.

Oh, and where did I write this blog? I’m not telling you.

[Via LEWIS 360]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *