A lot of people upload photos to the internet straight out of their cameras, tablets, and smartphones. From time to time this might lead to trouble. Contained in the images files (usually in the JPG format) is much more information than simple colorful pixels.
The added information (so called
What is EXIF
The EXIF acronym stands for
Other types of hidden metadata commonly included in photos are:
- IPTC (
International Press Telecommunications Council’s Information Interchange Model),
- XMP (
Extensible Metadata Platform),
- GPS and Location,
- ICC (International Color Consortium) profile data,
- and JPG comments.
IPTC is currently being phased out and replaced by XMP.
So, in reality, EXIF is only one of many sets of metadata included in a photo but it is the most well-known, contains the most data, and thus it is used as an umbrella term to describe any metadata in an image.
Why Get Rid of EXIF Information
The amount of data that can be added to images as metadata is very large. The metadata can reveal much more about the creator of the image or the owner of the image capturing device than they wish.
Therefore, there are many privacy and security issues that command a sensible person to strip their images of metadata.
By now it is no secret that all metadata uploaded to the internet is being collected in bulk and stored indefinitely by the NSA.
Furthermore, it is to be expected that all images posted to social networking sites are treated the same way by the companies owning those sites.
Then, it is not too far-fetched to imagine that once vasts amounts of such metadata are collected, they become valuable and are bought and sold for large sums of money worldwide both to government agencies and marketing companies.
There were several notable incidents reported regarding EXIF data abuse:
- fugitive John McAfee’s location was revealed in photo’s EXIF information
- Mythbusters’ co-host, Adam Savage, inadvertently tweeted his home location together with his car’s photo
- photos of newly delivered Apache helicopters uploaded online by US soldiers led to the destruction of four of those Apaches
- some hackers revealed themselves by posting images with EXIF data
And there are many more situations where metadata from photos can be abused.
So, if you take shots with your mobile device, especially your smartphone, and upload them to the web, be aware that a lot of scary details about your location and person are included by default.
Here is a nice rundown about how to disable geotagging and location services on various smartphones.
When Not to Erase EXIF Data
Do not remove metadata, if you know exactly what data is being included in your photos’ EXIF and you made sure those information don’t reveal anything sensitive.
EXIF data may even help your copyrights. For example, if you publish photographs on your blog that you take and edit, then it might be a good idea to include your blog’s title and URL as parts of the EXIF metadata. Should anyone else pretend to have created the pictures, the EXIF information will show the truth.
Delete EXIF Data from a Single Image
Microsoft introduced a simple but very limited tool starting with Windows Vista.
To use it,
When there click the
A new window called
In it, click on the
Bulk Remove EXIF Information
To truly remove all metadata and do so with multiple images at once, use the combination of ExifTool and pyExifToolGUI. pyExifToolGUI is a graphical interface to ExifTool which in itself is a command-line utility.
First, download the zipped versions of both programs.
Since this will be a portable program, simply create a folder called
The simplest folder name I was able to come up with was C:\Portable.
Next, launch the executable file called
After the first launch of pyExifToolGUI, go to the
Click on the
Then select the
Click on the
Select one or more images and
Now you can click on the
To strip the photo(s) of all metadata, go to pyExifToolGUI’s menu and click
In the Remove metadata window that pops up, select
pyExifToolGUI will prompt you with the following question: “
Liked this post?
Subscribe to our newsletter to receive early notification of new posts and deals: