What Is Geotagging and How Is It Used?

December 11, 2020

Have you heard of geotagging? While it might sound like the latest teen trend, geotagging is actually a term for embedding geographical metadata into media like photos, videos, websites, and QR codes. From letting your friends know where your social media snaps were taken to preventing and solving crimes, this technology has a wide variety of capabilities. Here are four common ways that geotagging is used in real-world applications.

Organizing Your Photos and Videos

You have probably uploaded content to social media and noticed that your location automatically appears, but how does the app know? The answer is geotagging. Most consumer cameras and smartphones embed geographical data within photos and videos, and popular social media apps access this data to provide extra information with your content. Most devices allow you to disable this feature for increased security.

Facilitating Identity Resolution

Do you ever wonder how businesses, governments, and other organizations sort through lists of similar or identical names in their data systems? One very effective method is to use a name-matching software like NetOwl to comb through all that data. Embedded geographical data provides many clues to a person’s identity, and geotagging is just one of the many methods this powerful software uses to help tell individuals apart from one another.

Catching Criminals

Geotagging is an increasingly useful tool in solving crimes thanks to the growing presence of social media. Law enforcement can often locate suspects and persons of interest through the location data in the photos and videos they post for their friends. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops left at crime scenes are also useful for locating both suspects and victims thanks to the geographical data embedded in many of the files stored on these devices.

Making a Case in Court

Crime-solving is not the only application of geotagging in the legal system. Embedded geographical information in footage from security cameras, dash cams and police body cams provide solid evidence in court by establishing the exact location where an event occurred. Geotagged personal photos or videos can also provide accidental evidence to vouch for a person’s location at the time a crime was committed.

Although geotagging has many practical uses, this technology can also put users in danger. Tagged photos posted on social media disclose your location not only to friends and family but also to people with potentially nefarious motives. Consider leaving the geotagging feature disabled on all your devices until you need it, and always disable geotagging on your children’s devices.

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