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geotagging

Contributor(s): Stan Gibilisco

Geotagging is the addition of geographical information, usually in the form of latitude and longitude coordinates, to Web sites, images, videos, smartphone transmissions, and various other data types and sources. Sometimes geotagging includes place names such as street addresses, towns, postal zip codes, or telephone area codes. Less often, altitude data may be given as well.

Geotagging provides Internet users with a variety of convenient features. For example, by entering the street address into a database such as Google Street View, users can get photographs taken from the street near the input location, with links to maps and satellite or aerial photographs of the area. When used in conjunction with social media sites, geotagging can keep viewers informed as to the whereabouts of their friends and colleagues.

Privacy advocates have expressed concern about geotagging, particularly when it occurs without the knowledge or consent of the person uploading a file. For example, geotag data associated with photographs uploaded to Facebook can inform viewers when the user is out or on vacation, thus endangering home security. Geotagging can also facilitate cyberstalking, by allowing the perpetrator to track the victim's physical location. Metadata removal tools exist for the specific purpose of deleting geotags from uploaded files.

This was last updated in January 2013

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