Nokia phones automatically tagging photos with cell ID

I wonder how many people know that their Nokia phone may be automatically tagging all their photos with enough information to track where they go? – even if they don’t have GPS.

This is certainly the case if you have a Nokia N80 with Lifeblog installed. When the photos are synced to your PC so is the location information. It is easily viewable in the Lifeblog database.

To view this information in your Lifeblog database get the SQLite Database Browser from SourceForge. Fire it up and select the Lifeblog database which should be at \NokiaLifeblogData\DataBase_2\NokiaLifeblogDataBase.db3. I’d advise you to back up the database before you try this.

Locate the LbObjectXT table. This links the object id (i.e. the photo) to the place.

LbObjectXT table in the Nokia Lifeblog database

In the LbObjectFileReference table you’ll be able to turn the LbObjectID into something meaningful.

The LBPlace table then contains the information about the place. It has the MCC (country code), MNC (network code), LAC (local area code) and CellID.

LBPlace table in the Nokia Lifeblog database

This is enough information to pinpoint your photo to an area of less than half a mile square in built up areas. In less populated areas the accuracy may only be in the order of several miles.

Depending on how you feel about things this is either a really cool feature of your Nokia phone / Lifeblog or something you might worry about. If you take a lot of photos then it would be possible to work out roughly where you were each time you took a photo – if it were possible to convert the cell ids to co-ordinates.

There are several databases around which show you where the cell ids are located, however most are very incomplete. The best database is likely to be owned by Google – they currently have a database linking cell Ids to location which is populated by users of its Google Maps application. If they were ever to publicly release this database then it would be relatively easy to work out where all you photos were taken.

Open questions I have are:

  • Is this information only recorded if you have Lifeblog installed?
  • What other phones are recording your cell ids as you take photos?

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