Photo metadata has been in the news after the eccentric antivirus tycoon John McAfee inadvertently leaked his position to the world. Apparently, Vice was with the now infamous murder suspect and forgot to scrub his position information before uploading a photo of him to the internet. This fact quickly got picked up by news outlets, like TNW and NPR. According to McAfee’s own website, the slip up was blamed on a “unseasoned technician at Vice headquarters” who must have forgotten to check the photo for any GPS coordinates recorded in the metadata. Oops!
The fact that photos can contain location-specific metadata should not be news to the world. A few years back a website called I Can Stalk U, no longer active but still online, attempted to help educate the masses about just how much data we can post about our lives in the pictures we choose to make public on the Internet. They targeted Twitter and some of the various photo sharing services that inhabit that ecosystem, but the problem was generally recognized as being larger than just Twitter. The McAfee photo is proof of that.
But what about us normal folks? Do the social networks and internet sites we frequent most scrub our GPS coordinates out of photos we upload? Are we accidentally creating a situation where the Internet can know where we are?