Posts Tagged ‘airme’

Privacy and GeoTagging Photos with GPS-enabled iPhone

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

flickr geotag example map

Being able to record where a photo is taken one of the key features of the new iPhone. Not only does the phone capture a great picture but there is no residual “Now where was I”. You can instantly see where the photo was taken on a detailed map. This is great for geocoding when surveying, but what are the social implications?

Do you want to share this level of detailed personal information?

Why wouldn’t you? Consider this:

Upload a week’s worth of photos.

  • One taken on the way into work of that cute gal you always see at your metro station
  • Another in your office for a coworker’s going away party
  • Another taken at your favorite dance club
  • Another taken at the great brunch place you go to on Saturdays and
  • Another of the pile of laundry you’ve been ignoring all week

Normally you are adding captions and keywords that someone who already knows you can piece together and perhaps guess or already knows where all these physical places are. But you’ve gate-keeped based on “you need to know me and know enough about me” to get it.

Up until now, you’ve controlled the information flow based on how much you tag the photo in the context of how well your online “friends” know you.

Related links: adding GPS locations to photos when you don’t have a GPS (one) (two) (three) (four) (five).

GPS tagged photos are game changing

Now someone who doesn’t know anything about you, and with whom you might NOT want to share that level of personal information, can instantly become your first stalker. They know exactly where you live, exactly where you work, exactly how you get to work, and exactly where you relax and have let down your guard.

Something to consider as an adult and perhaps lock-down if your child has a GPS-enabled cell phone.

Of course, if you’re on a tourist trip and taking pictures of Yellowstone and the Statue of Liberty and are never going to be there again it’s perfectly fine to include the full GPS coordinates since that doesn’t disclose personal information and you’ll not routinely passing by there again. However, if you visit Aunt Mildred in Brooklyn on the same trip you might want to limit access to her home’s location.

I’m invincible, right? What do I care?

Consider the following two situations:

  • I was at a friend’s house party on Friday and took a few pictures and was about to post them when it hit me: I’m potentially compromising her safety, not just my own. If I post those GPS enabled photos some random person could view the photo (hey, it’s up on Flickr for anyone to browse) and know which front door to be waiting at. Skechadellic, dude!
  • I have a swimming hole I’d like to keep on the down-low but when I go out there I take a few shots with my camera to remember the scene. If I post those on Flickr with the GPS coordinates suddenly anyone that views my the photo tagged “My secret swimming hole” can see it placed exactly on that blue map polygon and route directly to it. Not so secret after all. Oops!

So it turns out Flickr has a way to moderate this to an extent. There is a setting to control this, sort of. Screenshot below:

flickr geotags

Notice how I do NOT have this option checked. But my GPS information is still being read in and placed on my account map somehow. Bad!

User Solution 1

The best, fail-proof option is to not record the GPS information when the photo was taken. But then you loose that information for your personal record. The iPhone asks the first time a GPS enabled application is launched if you want to allow it access to the GPS. Press “Don’t Allow” and you’re set.

But once you have enabled the camera to know the location you can’t disable it until the phone is turned completely off and restarted, less than convenient and oh so easy to forget about. You can go to the General Settings area of the phone and turn Location Service on and off without restarting the phone, however.

iphone use current location

User Solution 2

There should be a middle way when uploading and displaying on photo sharing sites like Flickr. This way you retrain full GPS location for your private records but only let out an approximate public location for everyone else.

For the Mac you can download PhotoInfoEditor to edit the precision of the GPS coordinates stored in the EXIF information for the photo (or a duplicate targeted for public upload). I had a devil of a time finding this app as most simply report the GPS coordinates; they do not allow them to be edited. If someone knows of a comparable app on the PC please email me.

Notice in the screenshot below that I have stripped the latitude and longitude to display to the hundredth (39.35° N). You could just as well scramble the coordinates down to the 4th or 5th decimal position when in the city and still be in the right neighborhood but no longer be at the right building. Photosets can be batched adjusted.

This puts the photo in the rough vicinity of the actual location but does not reveal the actual location

. photo info editor screenshot

When you do this before uploading to Flickr or Picasa you can have the benefit of placing your photos on a map with some accuracy but just not with a high precision. In other words, don’t zoom too far into the map or the photo locations become inaccurate. But zoomed out they are perfectly acceptable.

How can software be improved?

On upload / display of the photos in a social photo site:

  • Group permissions for viewing Placename tags and GPS coordinates on map with default being NOT to show the geographic location but to apply limits of precision with individual photo exceptions as detailed next:
  • On / off toggle for Placename tags per photo
  • On / off toggle for GPS coordinates per photo
  • Placename precision (country, state, county, town, neighborhood) from Yahoo or Google geocoder as a slider control per photo
  • GPS precision (exact, 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, 1 mile, 2 mile, 5 miles, 10 miles, 20 miles, 60 miles) for latitude and longitude as a slider per photo

The GPS precision needs to take into consideration that the number of earth miles at each degree of latitude changes. Simply chopping of decimal places is a crude solution. A more elegant solution would be to add a random ± X decimal degrees to the actual location at the target precision. Even though the iPhone GPS can get you down to 10 meter accuracy, sometimes you don’t want to be that precise.

I’ve already spoken to the developer at AirMe which is my favorite app on the iPhone for uploading to Flickr and he seems interested in making the required upgrades to his application. Please help spread the word to other developers!

Mapping and GPS on the iPhone

Monday, July 14th, 2008

apple iphone promo

So I bought one of those glossy little toys on Friday and have been geeking out ever since. The default Google Maps application that comes with the phone is pretty good and the GPS “locate me” feature works well for me (fast, accurate with good precision).

But there is no way to see the current location in latitude / longitude format while on the phone!? Not quite an ArcPad. But perhaps forthcoming 3rd party aps will improve the situation.

When I take a picture this information is embedded but when emailing the photo the EXIF tags with the GPS coordinates are stripped out. These tags are visible in Photoshop and other advanced graphic software. Only by synching via iPhoto on the Mac gets the photo of the iPhone with the EXIF intact.

airme


I am enjoying AirMe for taking quick shots and uploading them to Flickr. Strangely enough it uses the GPS to know what country, state, and town to tag the images with (heck, it even puts in the weather conditions as tags) but drops the latitude and longitude. But so does the default Photos ap from Apple when emailing photos so there seems to be a larger problem here. None of the photo aps allow me to locate the photos that I have taken on a map while on the phone.

Photo sites that support GPS coords include (source):

Travel / Sports Sites

where iphone

When it works (their servers are getting overwhelmed), Where provides some great GPS-enabled location based services gathering locations and plotting them onto a Google map centered on your current position. These include a general “Local Search”, Zip car locations, Yelp, Starbucks, and Gas Buddy. My favorite is “HeyWhatsThat” (Peak). It uses SRTM terrain information to build a horizon elevation profile and labels significant mountain peaks that are visible.

There are also several aps that broadcast your current location to the world. These include Whrrl and Loopt. Sci-fi amazing and creepy at the same time.

River Guide for Kayakers reports real time streamflow information throughout the US via the USGS. Good use of regions and states breadcrumbs / categories to hone down the display when not using the GPS or looking wider afield than your current location

Features I’m looking for in future iPhone photo / mapping aps:

  • Live GPS tracking (storing of the route).
  • Location tagging
  • Attach photos to location (location is created on capture of photo)
  • See all photos in an album on the map as icons
  • Click on the photo icon in map view get a big view of the photo
  • Attach a longer text description to each location, not just the name
  • Export and export to GPX format
  • Export and export to KML format

Mapping sites with other nice features:

  • Nokia Sports Tracker – GPS camera phone makes it easy to record a jog and then post it online. Decent map with Start, Stop, critical points (fastest, slowest speeds; lowest, highest elevations), photos. Includes workout profile (speed, altitude) graph. Includes summary with times, duration, distance, speed, pace, altitude, etc.
  • Panoramio – Good use of location breadcrumbs. Several “modes” showing large photo (with title), local area map, regional map. The actual latitude and longitude are displayed. Includes tags, EXIF metadata, and viewing stats.
  • EveryTrail – Does a better job of recording discussion about the entire trip / route / album. Trip map with photos as clickable icons. Large photo view. Includes lat-long display. Easy to “swip” the previous and next photos, or see in a “list” format.
  • MapMyRide – Ability to tag non-photo locations / waypoints on the map. Display of mile / km markers along longer routes / tracks.

Sometimes the best iPhone “aps” are actually just iPhone optimized websites.

Weather Underground is a perfect example. They have Current weather, Radar, Forecast, and Warnings. The screenshot here is large as viewed on my computer web browser instead of the iPhone. The iPhone’s display is twice the resolution of my monitor so halve the size. Tap the buttons on the phone version to auto scroll to that location on the page.

weather underground