What does your EXIF data say about you?

View from behind the camera : By PhotoMIX Ltd. : Used with permission
View from behind the camera : By PhotoMIX Ltd. : Used with permission

The current age of publishing photographs online is an interesting one, the carefree sharing of snapshots of our personal lives and self-portraits seems strangely unquestioned.

It is common for me to edit photographs that I publish online, and of course to be selective about what words I publish online. But I don’t often think about the EXIF data embedded in my photographs.

EXIF data is the embedded metadata in a photograph that can be sensitive. It contains loads of information including: the camera make, camera model, serial number, the time of exposure and the location (if you have those settings enabled).

‘These settings can then be later used to organize photographs, perform searches and provide vital information to photographers about the way a particular photograph was captured.’

Although these days people tend to use post processing a lot, and sometimes closely guard their Lightroom techniques. This makes EXIF data potentially irrelevant, or deleted by the photo editor.

The EXIF data alone cannot tell you exactly how the final image was created.

For social media use EXIF data is a useful way to share more about the photo through geotagging. Yet for general users the location data is probably the most sensitive. And most social networking sites removed EXIF data for privacy concerns and have users add their geotags manually.

Guides like this one can help you understand it better.

And while ‘You cannot stop EXIF metadata from being added to your photographs … you can prevent geotagging by simply turning it off in your camera or camera app.’

EXIF data from a picture on my blog : By David Sidwell : Used with permission
EXIF data from a picture on my blog : By David Sidwell : Used with permission

Above is the EXIF data from an image I uploaded to this blog. I didn’t pay attention to it at the time, and I had location data disabled, but it possibly includes more information than I would want to volunteer. 

But you might not need to moderate your EXIF data because there are many ways that uploading or downloading photographs online can automatically remove it; like uploading images to Facebook or Instagram.

Also I believe that transferring images through apps like Viber, Kakaotalk, or via MMS often removes the EXIF data.

Which of your devices do you check EXIF data on? : By Will Milne : Used with permission
Which of your devices do you check EXIF data on? : By Will Milne : Used with permission

It is a strange situation because realistically the information is not useful in most cases or is deleted automatically.

But should we be lax about it? 

There is a very real chance that people are uploading photographs to websites which unintentionally have sensitive embedded information.

It would pay to be aware of it and consider using a browser plug-in, a desktop application, or to at least check the geotagging settings of your phone or camera.


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