EXIF data has been around since the late 1990s and was created by the Japan Electronic Industries Development Association (JEIDA). EXIF data is not solely used by smart phones, but is actually used in many electronics ranging from digital cameras to scanners as well as other technologies that are used to transmit or receive images. EXIF data covers a wide array of information ranging from the shutter speed of the camera used to take the photo to date and time the photo was taken, focal length, flash information, GPS coordinates where the photo was taken, as well as other useful things that provide more knowledge about the specific photograph. Some common references to the GPS information in EXIF data is geotagging. It gets its name because it is much like tagging a friend in a photo, only it tags your exact GPS location, including altitude and longitude of the phone when it took the picture.
In learning about EXIF data and how to remove it, students are empowered through their understand of privacy issues that may arise in revealing information online.
In doing this tutorial students’ privacy will be better protected because he or she may remove exif data, including geotagging, from images they wish to post online.
In order to even begin removing EXIF data from images, one must have a stable source of electricity, a laptop or computer, and must be able to connect to the internet. The conductor of the tutorial used a laptop with Windows 7 64-bit as the operating system (OS) and used Google Chrome as the web browser. There are programs that are available for systems running Macintosh that are EXIF data removers, however, this is not the place to learn about them. The Exif Tag Remover being used only works for Windows operating systems.
I, myself, have used this exact Exif Tag Remover many times in uploading photos that were taken on my iPhone. I used my phone to upload the pictures to my laptop, and then used the program to remove the EXIF data prior to uploading the photos on Facebook. I think that these programs are extremely beneficial in maintaining online privacy because they allow users to remove information, such as GPS coordinates of where a photo was taken, in order to prevent strangers from knowing where they live and reside.
The dangers of geotagging have been written about increasingly more because they may pose a real threat to privacy and security. In a WBIR (NBC) article, Lt. Lane of the New York Police Department’s Computer Crimes Squad speaks of the dangers of geotagging and the use of social networking sites. “If you for instance take a photo of your flat screen and you want to share it with your friends you may have inadvertently given away your street address, then you mention in a another post that you’re leaving town on Thursday. The next thing you know someone knows where you live that you’re not home and that you have expensive property.” Not only can this be dangerous, but people can actually begin to identify patterns of a person’s movement depending on where and when they take pictures. If a potential stalker can see daily movements and patterns through someone’s geotags, then that person may be more likely to follow the individual around.
That being said, EXIF data can be very helpful depending on what a person is doing. For example, photographytalk.com (a website about photography), mentions how beneficial EXIF data is for photography enthusiasts. A photographer might really like EXIF data because it will allow him or her to compare what exact specs each image has. This will allow for the photographer to learn from his or her mistakes when taking images they feel do not make the cut. Not only photographers benefit from EXIF data either. The WBIR article, mentioned earlier, also shows how law enforcement agencies can use EXIF data to their advantage in solving criminal cases.
These are the start-to-finish, simple, steps involved in removing EXIF data from images:
- First visit the Exif Tag Remover website here and click the download link.(Reminder: this software only works with PCs that operate with Windows, not Macintosh)
- The download link will take you to a page with numerous other tools so find the one that says “Exif Tag Remover,” and save it to a place you can easily find it
- Now open the file and install (Note: some web browsers may ask if you are sure if you want to run this software, just hit run)
- Once the software is installed you are ready to begin the removing EXIF data. If you have the free version downloaded, then you have the option of buying it right when you open the program or you can just hit next and continue with the process of removing the EXIF data. Unfortunately with the “demo version” of the program only one image at a time can have the data removed. In the full version whole folders can be copied at a time.
- Here you will see add a few buttons. Add Images allows the user to select an image from a folder to remove exif data from. If the user has a full version of the Exif Tag Remover, then he or she can select an entire folder of images to have the exif data removed. Hit Add Images and then the user can browse their computer files and folders to find the image. Once the image has been selected, hit next
Here the user has many option in saving the image. The images that are selected for EXIF data removal can be either replaced with the new images or the user can browse and decide where to save the new images. Selecting Add Suffix will cause the new images to have a _in front of the file name;ex: _image. Adding a prefix will cause the image name to look like this image_. Users can change what words will be before or after the underscore ( _ ) if they wish.
After choosing where and how to save the new images with the exif data removed it will give the users a lot of choices of exactly what EXIF data they want removed. I know that selecting Exif GPS will for sure remove the “geotag” from the image, but I do not know what the other information means because I am not a photographer and the information is not readily available online.
Once the image has been cleaned, the user can either go to the folder where it was saved or if they wish to remove the EXIF data from more photos they can just hit back and then they will be taken back to the image selection and select more images.
Here are some additional resources for learning about EXIF data and removing them from images:
TekShot This website is a handy tool for learning the uses of EXIF data as well as giving a tutorial with a different company of software.
SuperUtilis This is the program TekShot mentions and they also have a tutorial with pictures on their website to guide you through the process.