The less information about you, your location, and anything to do with your personal data out there in the world, the better. Not only can it put your personal information at risk of malicious use by cybercriminals, but in the worst circumstances, it can even escalate to danger to your personal safety. Mobile phones are considered key tech essentials in the modern world, especially as more workplaces expect us to stay connected while on the go. There’s very little reason to keep geotagging enabled if you’re using an Android device, and there are a lot of potential loopholes in using it. So here’s how to disable it for good.
What is Geotagging?
Many of us don’t realize that location and time data are built into the photos we snap with our mobile phones. Called Geotagging’ this innocently included data can be a rich source to mine for criminals, hackers, and even malicious third parties around us like stalkers, jilted exes, and nosy bosses. It’s not always easy to see if this Exif data is encoded into your phone pictures.
It’s frighteningly common to share photos today. You may take pictures for social media or to share them with a client to show a work in progress. Did you know you could be giving away your exact geographical location while doing so?
By default, this feature is enabled on all Android phones and tablets. Unless you need it, it’s safer to turn this tattle-tailing function off by default. It’s also smart to check in with this feature after software updates to the Android system, as these may revert device settings to the factory without you realizing it. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to do with Android.
Does Geotagging Have A Use?
There are some uses for geotagging on Android devices. For example, you can scroll through large photo collections and have them grouped by time and location. Some automatic album software on devices will use it similarly.
However, for most of us, it’s more of a security vulnerability than a useful feature. While some online services will automatically scrub Exif data from any image you load to keep its patrons safer, it’s always best to take charge of your online security yourself rather than hope for the best from third parties.
Using the Camera App
If you are using the default camera app on a stock-standard Android phone, do the following:
- Open the camera app on the device
- Tap the Settings icon (the gear). It is usually in the top right corner.
- Disable the toggle for Save Location
Save Location is sometimes called GeoTag or Location Tag device dependent.
If you use separate image editing or camera apps, look for a similar option within the app. Most cameras and apps will ask you about this feature the first time you use it- but few of us pay attention to those little nag screens, so it’s worth checking.
Disabling Geotagging via Settings on Android Devices
However, a second location can also enable geotagging on your Android devices. It’s a good idea to check both of these, especially if you use third-party image editing or camera apps.
- Open your General Settings menu.
- Scroll to Apps
- Now scroll to Camera
- On the next screen, access Permissions
- Tapp on Permissions
- Toggle Location to Off
What About Existing Photos?
That will ensure no new photos will share your geographic location. What can you do about existing photos on your Android device? Unfortunately, there’s no way to do this native to the Android operating system.
However, there’s an app for that! Or rather, several. You can download these to your device, although these will often only be able to scrub one photo at a time. For bulk scrubbing, you can look for a tool that will let you do it on the PC, but be sure to load back the cleaned images.
Consider Removing Location Tracking Altogether
Unlike geotagging photos, for which there are only small and very niche uses, there can be a solid reason to leave location tracking on your smartphone or other devices. Many Track my device programs need to use location tracking. So do many GPS and map apps. You will also find this built into some on-the-go delivery apps like Uber and quick-shop apps.
However, there’s no need to be enabled by default, especially for all apps. If you rarely use these apps, you can toggle them off and on conveniently or use permissions to ensure that only trusted apps can access them.
Here’s how to set location tracking off on Android:
- Open Settings
- Scroll to Location
- Toggle Location Off
It will generate a system message asking if you are sure. There’s also the option to leave low accuracy tracking enabled by default. Rather than giving a precision location (that’s high accuracy tracking), this will send your general location to apps that use the data. It still gives anyone looking a solid idea of where you are but won’t reveal your precise coordinates. Whether this is a workable solution for you depends on why you are using tracking in the first place. It’s enough to let Google Maps default to your correct country and suburb, but it won’t cut the mustard for GPS instructions, for example.
They will warn you if you use apps that need either Location on by default or cannot use the data from low accuracy tracking. It’s up to you how comfortable you are setting this permission for individual apps. Even if you need the utility of location tracking, it’s smart to know how to disable it and always be very picky about the permissions you give apps.
Taking your security into your own hands is always a smart idea. While many of us are unaware that this geotag, or Exif data, is being recorded by our phones every time the shutter clicks, you now know how to disable it safely.