Michael's Dispatches

CAUTION to Military Public Affairs


08 December 2012

photo3-1000US Navy image with GPS data embedded

Military photographers sometimes forget to turn off the camera GPS.  The Navy caption for this electric image is found on Flickr:

Lightning flashes near USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (Nov. 19, 2012) Flashes of lighting are seen over the horizon as the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) operates in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. Dwight D. Eisenhower is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions for Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Greg Linderman/Released) 121119-N-DO751-004

Flickr LINK to this image

photo1-1000The aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower is the lower red pin.

The Navy uploaded the image to Flickr using a Mac.

Using my iPad, I tapped the photo on Flickr to download the image.  Tap “Places” (under Photo button), and the map displays.

It took five taps and about ten seconds to find the location of the aircraft carrier.  This is convenient for the Iranians, providing them with snippets, including a partial inventory of the aircraft on deck.


The military posted this image on Flickr.


Five taps on my iPad, and the GPS shows that the jets are the upper red pin.  Lower pin is the Eisenhower.

That is all.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    DuneTribune · 8 years ago
    I am not sure the Navy has F- 5s flying in the Persian Gulf. The near jet is a F/A-18 but the far jet is not. It appears to be a F- 5.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      David Balsley · 8 years ago
      No, its an F-22.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      SteveP · 8 years ago
      Is the second plan an F- 5 or F-22?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      CT · 8 years ago
      [quote name="DuneTribune"]I am not sure the Navy has F- 5s flying in the Persian Gulf. The near jet is a F/A-18 but the far jet is not. It appears to be a F- 5.[/quote]

      The far aircraft is a USAF F-22.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Eric Sandbo · 8 years ago
      The type of aircraft is not the issue. The exact time, date, and location are constantly kept in the camera, by means of its own GPS receiver, and that info is recorded in the metadata stored in each photo the camera takes.
      The GPS function can be turned off, or the location info can be scrubbed from the image with an editing program after the fact. In this case, neither was done, and the Navy's own Public Affairs Officer published a pretty lightning photo that reveals to the world the exact location, give or take a few meters, of one of our best military assets.
      It may be suicidal for Iran to attack such an asset, but Iran's president has publicly stated his willingness to take his country down in flames just to make a point.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Joe · 8 years ago
    @DuneTribune - The far aircraft is part of the F22 fleet that is forward deployed. It's ours, it's just not carrier-based.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    BenP. · 8 years ago
    Joe, I think that may in fact be a F 5. The airwing on the longitudinal axis appears too short to be the f22 and more closely resembles the profile of the JSF.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      DavidK · 8 years ago
      I looks like an F-22 to me. The trailing edge of the vertical stabilizer is forward swept. Not so on the F- 5.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      GP · 8 years ago
      The aircraft in the background is, without doubt, an F-22. Joe is 100% correct.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mary · 8 years ago
    Wow...breathtaking DUH moment. Wish I could be a large $$ supporter.
    Thanks for what you do. I always look forward to your stuff!
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Laird · 8 years ago
      In my experience, including some time spent as a Systems Administrator in the Nav, the US Military is asonishingly clueless about advanced and non-obvious IT features of our everyday electronic world.
      From simple observation it was easy to determine that most responsible authorities (COs, OICs, NCOICs, etc.) don't bother reading or understanding the existing (out-of-date) instructions, much less think about newly arrived technology - and very few indeed actually think of the implications of future development.

      The kinds of Privacy Act, For Official Use, and higher classified information - - or information which could be used to derive the same - which could be used to compromise security or determine intents and capabilities was posted *everywhere.* Networks were poorly secured, if they were secured at all, and systems were treated cavalierly as a general habit.

      Nothing much, it seems, has changed.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Frank Ch. Eigler · 8 years ago
    OTOH, what if the PAO's are clever and plant false info in the image metadata?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Laird · 8 years ago
      That would require actual working thought-processes on the part of the PAO - Not very likely.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tim · 8 years ago
    I think the Iranians likely already knew the carriers were there, but agreed that the PA folks should probably scrub the GPS data from photos.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Charlie · 8 years ago
    Maybe the notification was purposefull
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Non Compos Mentis · 8 years ago
      I agree. This could be a normal caution statement to the Iranians.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Dave Landefeld · 8 years ago
      Were I to disseminate intentionally bad location/time information I'd use the old "Camera GPS Date Etc." trick...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sun Tzu · 8 years ago
    Looks like the PAO and company need a little OPSEC refresher :eek:
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sun Tzu · 8 years ago
    BTW GPS data is not always correct. I have personally seen GPS data that said I was in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico when I was actually in Tennessee 8)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Matthew M · 8 years ago
  • This commment is unpublished.
    MikeEcho · 8 years ago
    This is insane!! There are more people on the Eisenhower than in the town where I live. Sometimes I think we are our own worst enemy. Mike, send this up to the Joint Chiefs will you? When my son was in AfStan there were no cameras, no phones, and no internet, period! We didn't even know where he was until he got home. Good security makes for fewer casualties, and this is war where people are being killed every day.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Thomas Dikel · 8 years ago
    Unless, as a couple folks have suggested, the data are plants, ANY information is potentially an intelligence threat and should not be made available, certainly not at this level.
    By the way, I am very impressed by the technological knowledge of your readers. As an old grunt, I wouldn't know anything after the F-15s (my favorite!) and the F-16s.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Laird · 8 years ago
      In my experience, the military isn't that subtle. Oh, many *individuals* are that cunning and deceptive, but that almost never filters up above the very local level.

      Bet on 'apathy/stupidity/ignorance' before you bet on 'cunning.'
  • This commment is unpublished.
    David Parsons · 8 years ago
    ... using a PC, the GPS coords in the pic are shown if you download the original pic to your PC and just view the file "properties" - "details". Also shown with the coords is the camera timestamp, (11/19/2012 8:04PM) and the fact that the pic was post-processed with Adobe Photoshop, and a name associated with the Photoshop (Lt. Lindeman). This habit of people using consumer-grade tech products (Sony camera) in a security-conscious environment is how we inject computer viruses into places like Iranian nuclear processing facilities.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    davepen · 8 years ago
    This is certainly a teachable moment, but Carriers aren't exactly stealthy and the Persian Gulf is not that large. Even the Iranians can figure out where a Carrier TF is...
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Spacegunner · 8 years ago
    The second aircraft is definitely an F-22 Raptor. The F-22 has twin engines (intakes on each side) with rectangular, vectoring exhaust nozzles. The F- 5 is single-eingine with smaller intakes on each side & a round exhaust nozzle.

    The F- 5 has yet to be deployed with only one aircraft delivered to the Marines in November 2010.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    PJ · 8 years ago
    This is a total non-story. It's public/published/non-classified info that Mighty Ike is deployed to the area. The fact that it's public info where the carrier WAS at some point in the past is no big deal. That photo is dated 11/19 so it's three weeks ago. What's Iran gonna do? Launch missiles at those GPS coordinates? Any country in the world with satellites knows where the Eisenhower is in real time.

    Yon has become completely irrelevant which is really sad.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Dave Landefeld · 8 years ago
      [quote name="PJ"]This is a total non-story. It's public/published/non-classified info that Mighty Ike is deployed to the area. The fact that it's public info where the carrier WAS at some point in the past is no big deal. That photo is dated 11/19 so it's three weeks ago. What's Iran gonna do? Launch missiles at those GPS coordinates? Any country in the world with satellites knows where the Eisenhower is in real time. [/quote]


      "Yon has become completely irrelevant which is really sad."

      • This commment is unpublished.
        PJ · 8 years ago
        Nope that he's irrelevant or nope that it's sad?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    rcrogers6 · 8 years ago
    Conservatively, a carrier battle group can cover 480 nautical miles in one day's steaming. The picture would have to be published almost immediately to be of tactical value. Once up in the Gulf, they really can't hide. However, metadata should be scrubbed from all military photos in wartime regardless.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    40MikeMike · 8 years ago
    OOPS!! Maybe the "opsec 101" class was full. Perhaps a remedial course of "punch in the gut 201" is in order.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Charlie · 8 years ago
    For anyone who thinks this is not a problem, you are simply naive...the photos are taken and create a data point...if enough photos are taken and uploaded a trend or trackable pattern may be used by the iranians providing a potential tactical advantage, though be it small...this is a big deal. He who has the most information controls the field of battle even if from a weaker position.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    scotch7 · 8 years ago
    Others have made the point that Ike, and an F/A 18 are moving targets with non trivial radar signatures. An F-22 also moves but the radar sig is not so big.

    Ike's kinda big, there are very few secrets about her location in real time.

    SO: No harm, no foul, but a *seriously* teachable moment thanks to Michael.

    Good job yet again MY!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Anne · 8 years ago
    to quote my retired Navy husband : "that's what happens when you have those stupid smartphones.....
    Good thing he's no longer deployed....
  • This commment is unpublished.
    woodNfish · 8 years ago
    More proof that military intelligence is an oxymoron.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Haamerhed · 8 years ago
    It does seem petty...but a very good point. Doubt these images were uploaded real time- making the whereabouts of Ike a mute point (yeah she was there...where is she?) Loose Canon's Sink Ships?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Larry · 8 years ago
    Almost as crazy as bringing in unarmed Medevacs with red crosses crosses on them.

    This administration is saying and doing a lot more these days to minimize our national security and put our people in harms way with no consequences.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Green Eyed Jinn · 8 years ago
    I could swear the IKE has been deactivated, right? (01 December)

    So, what's wrong if the Navy wants to post a photo, even with geo-tagged data attached, about a ship's track in international waters, MONTHS after the fact?

    Everybody calm, please.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    common sense · 8 years ago
    It obviously isn't devestating information that was leaked when the location information of these pictures got out. It definately isn't good either! I think the bigger point is, that if this is happening on one of the most technilogically advanced ships in our fleet, in relative calm and safety of open water, what kind of information like this is getting leaked daily in the more hectic, boots on the ground areas that actually could provide tactical information? Such as Harrier parking on an airfield?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mike Lacey · 8 years ago
    Why do you assume that Uncle Sam doesn't want Iran to know the location of this rather powerful formation?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gump · 8 years ago
    What's more interesting than the lightning or where the carrier group "was", is the arc of electricity on the deck of the carrier between what appears to be an F/A-18 and some crewmen.

    That is an impressive lightning shot though. Especially if it was taken from a smartphone, which to my knowledge don't have the shutter speed to capture lightning like that. So if it wasn't taken from a smartphone... Was the GPS info deliberately embedded into the image? Perhaps the Navy wants to let Iran know we are there. However, we've had a carrier stationed in the Persian Gulf since 1991. So I really doubt Iran isn't aware of this.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      Bob · 8 years ago
      Gump I am fairly certain this was a long exposure photo to catch the lightning. The 'arc' you see is a crewman with a flashlight.
      most quality digital cameras have the GPS feature, not just smartphones.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    karen · 8 years ago
    very nice work... GOD bless u
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ken · 8 years ago
    There are simple programs which should be used, that completely strip out all EXIF and other data from pictures. They can operate on batches of pictures, say ones slated to be released? That way data can be part of the originals the military keeps, but stripped out of those released to the public.

    This danger is not anything new, but somebody seems to have forgotten it.

    In these particular pictures the data may not be that important, but I see Facebook and Flickr pictures from all kinds of people. Many with EXIF and GPS data intact. THOUSANDS of pictures.

    One picture may not be a big deal, but thousands of pictures are. With GPS data and enough identical items in pictures from various sources, you can already build a panorama type view of a base, inside a building, whatever you'd like.

    Scary? See PhotoSynth and Imaage Composite Editor(ICE) from Microsoft, both freely available and already being used.

    PhotoSynth: http://photosynth.net

    Microsoft ICE: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/ice/

    Maybe take a stroll around the Kandahar Boardwalk? Not hard to do.

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