ATTN Google+ Users: Your Photos Contain Location Data

One of Google+’s much touted features is its ability to automatically slurp photos off of your mobile phone. I’m a big fan of this functionality. It represents a marked improvement in user experience over Facebook. It’s silly that we waste so much time dragging and dropping image files.

Before taking advantage of automatic uploads, users should be aware of some other less obvious features. When viewing a photo, click Actions->Photo Details and you’ll be presented with some neat data:

I assume this information is pulled straight from the EXIF metadata embedded in the image file from the phone. That’s handy, although I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to get out of the histogram. If you click “Location”, you’ll see something even more interesting.

That’s almost exactly where I took the picture. Awesome!
But very close to my apartment. Creepy!

As far as I can tell, control over who sees what is a major selling point of Google+.
The whole Circles concept seems like a user friendly access management system. So I find it a little surprising that sharing a photo is bound, by default, to share location information as well.

I know that the information was already in the EXIF data, I gave the Android application permission to access the phone’s GPS, and there was probably a warning in the terms I agreed to. But 99% of people won’t consider any of that when they share an image from a location they would like to keep private.

To be clear, I think this feature is really cool. Google has taken full advantage of geotagging in a way that provides value to end users. People just need to be aware of what exactly they’re sharing.

4 Replies to “ATTN Google+ Users: Your Photos Contain Location Data”

  1. Nick, this probably happened because GPS was enabled in your camera app. That option is disabled by default IIRC, unless Sense decided to change that. G+ doesn’t strip the EXIF data, so I would consider this an issue with the camera application rather than the G+ application.

    1. I must have told the app to include GPS when I blew through the setup wizard.

      It isn’t really a problem with Google+, just unexpected behavior. Most people either:
      A) have no idea what EXIF data is
      B) expect social networking sites to strip it. Facebook removes it. Too lazy to check others.

  2. Iiiiiiiiiiiiin West University, born and raised.
    Sorry, that popped into my head for some reason.

    BTW: the histogram is the color levels in the picture. Picasa does this, too. I’m sure it means more to certain people than to me.

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