What Does Geotagging Mean?

Geotagging is the process of adding metadata that contains geographical information about a location to a digital map. The data usually consists of latitude and longitude coordinates, but may also include a timestamp, as well as links to additional information. Geotag metadata can be added manually or programmatically.


In Google Maps and similar GPS services, geotagging may also be referred to as dropping a pin. Pins can be tagged with contextual information to share information about a specific physical location. Popular types of contextual info include photos, videos, website URLs and QR codes.

Geotag Pin

The red icon above is called a pin and its use on a digital map indicates that a location that has been geotagged. End users can view a pin's additional metadata by hovering their finger or mouse over the icon.

Techopedia Explains Geotagging

Location identification has become a fundamental feature of many social media sites and can be a useful tool when added to business applications and medicolegal applications. For example, some social networking sites and services give out the location of their users, which allows users to know exactly where their friends are as they are logged on to that website (or check in to the service). Since devices and tracking are now ubiquitous, that social media tracking becomes a more powerful and valuable tool for users.

Contrast that with the ways that geo-tagging first developed, as mainly a way to tag digital assets like photos with metadata. Using the principle of geospatial contextual information, users were able to read labeling data from an archive, but not typically use insights in real time. That came later, as geo-tagging kept developing into what it represents today.

How Does Geotagging Work?

Methodologies for geotagging very quite a bit. Some of them work with geospatial location and “toponym” information only in an archival context, where others stream content continually, or aggregate content for machine learning models.

Regardless of how they are set up and what they do, geotagging systems all represent the same fundamental idea: that digital tracking of location provides value-added services in a given application context.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Geotags

Security professionals urge everyday users to beware adding too much locational data to their profiles or other means of input, because criminals could use that data to conduct cyberattacks or track their whereabouts physically.

On the other hand, geotagging has also been a great boon to law enforcement in general – from nationwide license plate tracking databases to forensic digital work, law enforcement uses all of that geotagging to better understand suspected criminal activity and fine-tune the ability of the legal system to produce accurate results.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…