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What Information are You Sharing

Most people will say “It’s just a picture”. In the time before digital photography it was just a picture. The only information it shared was captured in the image.  That is not the case any more.T

he Cyber Security community,  marketing companies and other industries to include bad guys have known about this information from the beginning. However a recent report on the news brought to public attention the info you are sharing when you post a digital image on social media or elsewhere. The information is called EXIF data. EXIF data contains specifc information about the picture. Information that can be very valuable.

Exif Data

Its not just a cute picture of a kitten playing games with its mom. EXIF data can contain time and specific location down to a few feet.

EXIF data is easily available to anyone who can view  the picture or video.

EXIF data can include:

    • Camera manufacturer and model.
    • Data and time the photo was taken.
    • Location – may be GPS coordinates or even an actual address
    • Compression type used for the photo.
    • Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings.
    • Metering mode.
    • Flash mode.
    • Pixel resolution.

While much of the EXIF data is useful information about the picture some of it can contain very risky information. Information like the location where the picture was taken and the manufacturer of the camera.

You may think the camera manufacturer information is not that big of a deal but in come cases it can be very valuable. If someone is trying to target you or your family, knowing that you took that picture with your iPhone8 or HTC phone they could craft engineer a way to gain control of your phone. So is that information something you want to share with the world?

The location may be GPS coordinates or even an address. So when you took the picture of your son or daughter’s first day at day care, the EXIF data may actually contain the precise address where your child attends their daycare. Do you think that is a safety issue? Do you really want to tell the world that info? That is exactly what you may be doing if you are posting such pictures.

Fortunately there is a way to limit the EXIF data that you publish with your photo’s. In Windows, the task of removing EXIF data is a fairly simple process. First you select the picture you want to work with. Right click on the image and from the pop up menu choose Properties. Then in the image properties window select the Details tab and then choose the Remove Properties and Personal Information link. From this window you can either create a copy with the possible properties removed or you can  pick and choose which properties you want to get rid of.

Unfortunately Windows does not allow you to get rid of all the EXIF data so there will still be some remnants such as focal length, camera manufacturer and other information. The positive side of using Windows is that you can choose multiple photos at once that you wish to remove the data from. If you are not comfortable with the data left you should choose to use an app such as Adobe Photoshop($$) or GIMP (FREE) which will allow you to strip all EXIF info.

If you choose to use GIMP, it may actually be easier than doing it in Windows and you will be able to remove all the EXIF data from the image.

There are also mobile apps you can install that can remove EXIF data right on your phone. Of course one huge step when using your mobile device to take and share pictures of the fun times you are having is to turn off the location sharing feature. Doing so may disable some other apps from working as advertised but maybe its time to find another one.