What is it?
Metadata is data about data, it’s additional information about the file, but not the contents of the file.
Exif-Metadata, is additional information recorded at the time the image was taken about the image.
The data that’s included is information about the camera, the author and where it might have been taken, this is called ‘geolocation data,’ as it’s data stored about the GPS location of a photo.
The range of data can vary, and I recently discovered that altitude information is included in images taken by some drones.
Why Should I Care?
If shared, photos that contain geolocation data which hasn’t been stripped could be used to find the location of where a photo was taken.
Why Does It Exist?
Why is this data baked in? – well, it’s trying to be helpful, it’s what lets your phone show you where the photo was taken on the map.
Who’s Got My Back?
Well you’ll be happy to hear that most major platforms are stripping this information for you, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Gmail and more remove this information, but you’ll want to be conscious of smaller websites. I once extracted the geo-location data of a photo sent on a trading marketplace, and I found the guys garage where he took the photo he was trying to sell.
What’s The Risk?
The risk is you release information about yourself you didn’t mean to share. On the internet, revealing where someone lives is called ‘doxxing,’ and most companies will ban users who engage in that behavior, but just think for a moment if a photo revealed where someone in a witness protection program was, or if it gave an abusive ex an insight into where you are currently living? – this could be a problem.
What Should I Do About It?
Simply understanding what this data is, and understanding that your phone is recording this information is a great first step, it’s up to you, you can ask your phone not to capture geolocation data, but this stop your phone from showing you on a map the photos you’ve taken.
Know that you can remove Geolocation data from certain photos in your gallery on your smartphone, which is an easy process. Apps also exist for both iOS and Android which can help you strip this information for you.
Also remember, as mentioned earlier most social networking apps are already removing this information for you by default.