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According to the coordinates printed directly on this photo of my late son Kelvin here:

...and the Exif data from the .jpg:

GPSLatitudeRef: N
GPSLatitude: 24, 58, 34.6
GPSLongitudeRef: E
GPSLongitude: 121, 19, 37.768

...he was in Taiwan on Jan. 5, 2012 (two and a half months before he died).

However, I don't think he was ever in Taiwan, or anywhere near there. Is there any explanation for why a camera would generate the wrong coordinates? Maybe the whole thing is "messed up" because the supposed date of the image, as indicated by all the Exif data extractable:

GPSLatitudeRef: N
GPSLatitude: 24, 58, 34.6
GPSLongitudeRef: E
GPSLongitude: 121, 19, 37.768
Software: HTC Laputa Browser
DateTime: 2012:05:10 18:28:30

...indicates the picture was taken 5/10/2012, but he died 3/17/2012.

I can imagine the date of the camera being off as more likely than the calibration of the coordinates, though. The Bing map for "No. 23, Xinghua Rd, Taoyuan City Taoyuan County, Taiwan 330" (which is what I see when I enter "24° 58' 34.60" N, 121° 19' 37.77" E" into my browser).

The "software" entry from the Exif data says "HTC Laputa Browser", and the map does show a couple of "HTC"s on the map, whatever that is. I'm intrigued and confused. Can anybody shed any light on this?

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Pure speculation... Do smartphones actually have a "real" gps receiver (like a garmin/magellen/suunto) or are they getting them from a network correlation? (Like Geo-Ip, which can be thrown way, way off by a vpn or some other remote connection). – Wyrmwood Jul 23 '14 at 4:40

I can tell you from experience using GPS enabled cameras, and doing research on handheld GPS accuracy, there is a portion of your data that will be completely wrong (I had photos collected in Qatar showing up in Brazil). Additionally, the accuracy of the photo will be dependent on the surrounding (forest cover, buildings, etc.). Consumer grade cameras are not designed for survey accuracy, rather "in the ball park" accuracy. Is there any change the camera was used by someone else after his death?

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It's possible that somebody else used it, but the picture in question is of him. – B. Clay Shannon Jul 22 '14 at 20:39
I am sure there is a way to change the data on the EXIF, but it is very unlikely. – Ryan Garnett Jul 22 '14 at 21:06
Changing EXIF data on a picture is quite straightforward. – Paul Jul 22 '14 at 22:03
All EXIF can be considered suspect and is typically easily modified. Sometimes accidentally (on the user's part even if intentional on the software's) by other software, as appears to be the case here, and sometimes via intentional edits (be they benign or malevolent). This is why law enforcement uses products like this; and note that one has been cracked. Without access to the original source/device, one should always question veracity - just like with GIS metadata. – Chris W Jul 22 '14 at 22:04
up vote 2 down vote accepted

I guess the bogus coordinates are set to what they are because HTC is a smartphone made in Taiwan, and the coordinates they are set with are either those at their factory, or from the store from which the phone was sold (the map did show two "HTC"s close by).

To prove that something like that is the case, I checked another photo which I know was taken in Wisconsin:

...and it shows the exact same Taiwan coordinates both on the image itself and within the Exif data. So...conundrum solved (I think).


Here's the real story; I got this email response from my wife:

The only way I was able to save the images with my other phone was to use an app called footprints that would add coordinates. I did not know how to change the coordinates.

So NOW the answer doubtless is that footprints is Taiwanian software.

And "...indicates the picture was taken 5/10/2012..." is doubtless because 5/10 is when she transferred the pictures from his phone to hers.

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While it appears you have traced the cause in this case (software modified the data via poor design or user error), there are a couple of other things I would like to point out. If GPS is disabled on the phone, it may insert default coordinates (a poor design decision, but must be considered). Smartphones don't necessarily use independent GPS all the time - they often use triangulation via the cell network when GPS signals are weak or unavailable. This is (typically) different from camera GPS units, which are GPS only. – Chris W Jul 22 '14 at 22:11

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