EXIF contains a ton of information about your camera, and potentially where the picture was taken (GPS coordinates). That means, if you’re sharing images, there’s a lot of details others can glean from them.
EXIF stands for Exchangeable Image File Format. Every time you take a picture with your digital camera or phone, a file (typically a JPEG) is written to your device’s storage. In addition to all the bits dedicated to the actual picture, it records a considerable amount of supplemental metadata as well. This can include date, time, camera settings, and possible copyright information. You can also add further metadata to EXIF, such as through photo processing software.
Finally, if you use a camera phone or digital camera with GPS capabilities, it can record EXIF geolocation metadata. This is useful for geotagging, which creates all kinds of new possibilities, such as allowing users on photo-sharing sites to see any images taken in specific locations, view where your pictures were taken on a map, and to find and follow social events.
That said, EXIF and especially geotagged data, says a great deal about the photographer, who may or may not want to share all that information. The rest of this article is thus dedicated to showing you how to view your EXIF data, remove it, and finally, how to turn off geolocation recording on Android and iOS devices.
Viewing and Removing EXIF Data
When you take a photograph with your camera or phone, it records EXIF metadata, which you can later view in the image’s properties. A lot of this stuff is mundane and, in fact, you’re probably only concerned about the geolocation data.
You cannot stop EXIF metadata from being added to your photographs, but you can remove it after. Furthermore, you can prevent geotagging by simply turning it off in your camera or camera app. But, first things first, to view and remove EXIF in Windows, first select the photo or photos you want to fix, right-click, and select “Properties.”
If you want to add metadata, you can select values and edit the “Details.” If you want to strip the metadata from your photos, however, you want to click “Remove Properties and Personal Information” at the bottom of the properties dialog.
On the Remove Properties dialog, you can create a copy of your photos with “all possible properties” removed. Alternatively, you can click “remove the following properties from this file” and then check the boxes next to each item you want to delete.
It’s easy to do this in Windows, but in OS X you’ll have to resort to third-party software if you want to easily and completely strip the metadata out of your photos. You can remove the location data from photos in Preview. Open your photo, select “Tools -> Show Inspector” or use “Command + I”, then click the “GPS” tab, and “Remove Location Info” at the bottom.
Of course, there’s still a ton of other information contained therein that you might want to excise.
Luckily there are free options, perhaps the easiest of which is ImageOptim, for stripping your photos clean in OS X. If you use ImageOptim and you want to preserve the metadata in your photos, then we recommend you make copies. ImageOptim instantaneously strips and saves your photos, which saves you tons of time but will cause you to lose metadata that you might want to privately preserve.
ImageOptim has a number of preferences you should explore before you get started.
Once you’re happy, and have made any necessary adjustments, you can drag your photo(s) into the ImageOptim window and, as we mentioned, your photo’s EXIF metadata is instantaneously stripped, no questions asked, no buttons to click.
Upon further inspection, we see that there’s nothing left in our photo’s properties except the most basic information.
Removing EXIF is a smart idea, particularly if you’re especially privacy-conscious however, as we mentioned, your biggest concern is most likely the geolocation information. You can prevent geolocation data from ever being stored in your images in the first place by turning it off in Android and iOS.
Preventing Geotagging on Android and iOS
To do this in Android 4.4.x KitKat, open the Camera app and tap the round circle to the right of the shutter button, and from the resulting menu, tap the “Settings” icon.
Now, in the settings menu tap the “Location” button.
You can tell geolocation is now disabled because of the icon overlaid on the options button.
If you’re using the newer Camera app, such as the one now included in Android 5.0 Lollipop, the process is a bit simpler. Swipe right to expose the options and tap the “Settings” gear (it will be on the bottom-right in portrait mode).
On the resulting settings screen, turn off the “save location” option. Note, there’s no clear indication on the Camera app whether the location option is on or off, so make sure you check before you start taking and sharing your photos.
If you’re using an iOS device open your settings and tap the “Privacy” controls.
In Privacy, tap the “Location Services” button.
Location Services allows you to completely turn everything off in one fail swoop, or you can adjust apps and features individually. For now, tap “Camera” (you can adjust any others as you see fit).
In the Camera location settings, tap or make sure “Never” is selected.
From now until your reenable it, the Camera will not record GPS coordinates in your photo’s EXIF metadata.
Tis the season for taking photos and sharing them liberally with your family and friends but, you could be sharing a lot more information than you like. While the majority of metadata in photos is harmless, it can reveal a great deal about you. If that’s your intention, then you’re good to go.
If it isn’t, then you have some options for removing all that metadata from your photos. And, if you simply want to prevent your cameraphone from recording your location, then you can do that as well. If you have a dedicated camera with GPS built in, then you want to check your manufacturer’s instruction booklet to learn how to turn that off.
Do you have any questions of comments you’d like the share regarding EXIF? Please speak freely in our discussion forum and let us know what you think.