How to Remove EXIF Information from Images

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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 metadata) can range from technical details about your photo equipment all the way to your physical location.

What is EXIF

The EXIF acronym stands for exchangeable image file format. EXIF is a set of metadata usually added to JPG images. It is used in image capturing devices of all kinds, but mostly smartphones, tablets, cameras, and scanners.

Other types of hidden metadata commonly included in photos are:

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, right-click on an image and select Properties from the context menu.

In the Properties window, go to the Details tab.

remove-properties-and-personal-information

Remove Properties and Personal Information

When there click the Remove Properties and Personal Information link at the bottom of the window.

A new window called Remove Properties will open up.

remove-properties

Remove Properties

In it, click on the Select All button, then click OK.

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.

First, pyExifToolGUI:

pyExifToolGUI

Download pyExifToolGUI

Then, ExifTool:

ExifTool

Download ExifTool

Since this will be a portable program, simply create a folder called ExifTool and unpack the contents of both zip files there.

Tip

I decided to place all my portable software to one folder to further simplify matters should I need to move all of them to another computer in the future.
 
The simplest folder name I was able to come up with was C:\Portable.

Next, launch the executable file called pyexiftoolgui.exe.

First Launch

After the first launch of pyExifToolGUI, go to the Preferences tab in the right pane of its window.

Click on the Choose button and locate ExifTool’s executable file that you just unpacked. It should be in the same folder as pyExifToolGUI.

pyExifToolGUI Preferences

pyExifToolGUI Preferences

Then select the Your Commands tab. And enter -exif:all into the Parameters box.

pyExifToolGUI Your Commands — Parameters

pyExifToolGUI Your Commands — Parameters

View Metadata

Click on the Load Images button located in the bottom left corner of the window.

Select one or more images and Open them. To select more images use the Shift or Ctrl key together with your mouse.

Now you can click on the View Data tab to look through everything that’s included with the photo(s).

Remove Metadata

remove-metadata

Remove all metadata

To strip the photo(s) of all metadata, go to pyExifToolGUI’s menu and click Extra > Remove metadata.

In the Remove metadata window that pops up, select Remove all metadata.

Then click OK.

pyExifToolGUI will prompt you with the following question: “Are you sure you want to remove the above metadata from the selected image(s)?

Click OK and you are done.

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