EXIF stands for “Exchangeable Image File Format” and is extra data that is attached to any photo taken with a modern camera or smart phone. The data isn’t visible by looking at the picture itself but requires extra software to read it.
It mostly contains information about the camera/phone used to take the photo and what settings were used such as shutter speed, date, exposure mode. The data is useful to photographers who need to know how a specific picture was generated.
How do I see it?
If using Windows you can right click on a photograph and select “Properties”, the “Details” tab should then show you the EXIF data from the photo:
There are also various free pieces of software which can be downloaded to show you the data. The top one from Google is Panda IEXIF2:
There are also online services which allow you to upload a photo and check the EXIF data available:
Why should I care?
The majority of the data is harmless. Most people shouldn’t be concerned about strangers finding out what generation iPhone they own by looking up the details of a photo they have posted. The concerns arise when the photo is taken by a device connected to GPS as the users coordinates are then stored within the photo.
If the GPS EXIF data is available, someone can find out where in the world a photograph was taken.This can be very valuable data to someone trying to find out more information about you or your online identity.
If a stranger knows your name is John they have very little chance of finding you in real life, however if they know you are John who visits the same Costa coffee in a specific London street every Monday and posts a photo online they have a much better chance of finding out more.
How can I protect myself?
Luckily in 2016 most social media sites automatically remove EXIF data when you upload a photo. A quick check confirms that Twitter, Instagram and Facebook all remove the GPS data when it is uploaded.
If you are posting to a site which doesn’t strip the data you have the option to manually remove it yourself first.
The easiest way to do this in Windows is to right click on the file, select “properties”and under the “details” tab select ” choose “Remove Properties and Personal information”
There are also free online tools for removing the data before you share your photo:
The Previously Mentioned Panda IEXIF2 has a feature to remove the data, however it is part of the premium version of their software.