By Anna Hanuska
Did you know that your photos contain more information than just the pixel-created image? Any picture taken on a smartphone or digital camera has certain metadata attached to it, called Exif (Exchangeable Image File Format) data. This often includes information like the make and model of camera, the camera settings, the date and time the photo was taken, and most importantly, the location. This data is preserved when you upload, share, email, or text images, which quickly becomes a privacy concern. Anyone with access to a photo taken at your home could easily learn exactly where you live! Luckily, there are many ways to stop that from happening.
First of all, many places where people commonly share photos—such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp—remove the metadata before posting images publicly. However, the company will still have access to it, and can use it to better understand their customer base. To many, that sort of tracking feels invasive. For example, many Americans (and even the government!) have concerns about Tik Tok revealing their data to the Chinese government. For more information, read our article, Tik Tok Tracking. To prevent that, you can always remove the data before posting or prevent some of it from being stored in the first place.
Though most phones don’t have a built in feature to totally remove Exif data, there are many free apps that can do it. You can also screenshot a photo and share the screenshot, as those usually don’t have as much data attached. Additionally, both Apple and Google Photos have options for you to remove location data, since that’s what people usually feel is important, before sharing a photo. For Apple, you can use this tutorial. For Google, you can use this one.
My preferred method is preventing location from being stored in photos in the first place. If you restrict your camera app’s access to GPS, it can’t store location. For iPhones, the option should be under Privacy>Location Settings>Camera, and while it varies for Android, it should be under the Privacy>Permissions Manager tab.
With your privacy in mind, be careful what you share and post, and not just because of what appears in the picture!