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How to stop your mobile phone photos from spying on you

You may think that your mobile phone’s camera is perfect for spying on other people, but it’s actually you that it could be prying on. This is because mobile phone cameras can secretly store a lot of data that you might not want to give away.

Every digital image created by a camera – from mobile phones to traditional compact cameras – has information about the pictures stored inside it. If someone has the right software they can read this information to learn all about the camera and picture.

Everything from the make and model of the camera, to whether or not the flash was used, is stored inside the file. The real danger isn’t in over-sharing what your shutter speed is, however, but in location data that is automatically saved into the files. It’s likely that your mobile phone is automatically saving the location of where your picture are being taken, which could be a real security hazard if you share photos online.

This location data gets stored into pictures because modern smartphones come with GPS chips inside them. These allow the phones to do cool things, like show you where you are on Google Maps, or allow your phone to work as a satellite navigation device. However, by default a phone’s camera also accesses the GPS chip and saves your location into each and every picture it takes.

Why you shouldn’t share your location

Some people might not be bothered that the photos they take have location data, but if you’re planning on sharing pictures online, you need to be cautious. Criminals will use any information they can find to track down potential victims. In this case, location data is perfect for finding potential targets for robberies.

For example, imagine you’ve shared some pictures of you at home on Facebook. Each of those photos – if taken by your phone camera – could have your home address encoded into them. Months later, you post a status saying you’re going on holiday for two weeks. It doesn’t take a criminal mastermind to combine the two, and know where you live and that your house will be empty. Scary.

Turn off geo-location

Luckily, it’s easy to turn location services off on both iPhone and Android devices.

For iPhone:

1. Launch Settings
2. Tap Location services
3. Toggle Camera to OFF

For Android:

1. Start your camera application
2. Open the menu and select Settings
3. Turn off “Geo-Tag Photos”

Perfect! You’re now off the radar!

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