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Consumer Reports: Do photos put your privacy at risk?

Posted at 6:20 AM, Apr 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-22 09:20:59-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - If you download an image file, you get much more information. You can see details, like the picture was taken using an iPhone5 at 4:08pm on June 28, 2015 in Norwalk, Connecticut. In fact, you can even find out the location down to the exact GPS coordinates.

“So, when you take a photo with a digital camera or a phone, details about things like when, where, and how the images are created are captured and stored automatically in the file in what’s called Exif data, which is short for Exchangeable Image File Format," says Consumer Reports Tech Editor, Thomas Germain. "And that information travels with the photo wherever you send it, whether you’re posting it online or sharing it with a friend in a text.”

CR says that Exif data can be very useful. When you store photos in Google Photos or iCloud Photos, the Exif data is preserved so you can search for photos by date and location. Both services allow you remove location data from individual photos. If you share pictures using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or WhatsApp, the Exif data won’t be available to the people who see them.

“We spoke to the popular social media companies and they all told us that exif data isn’t used for advertising purposes," says Germain. "But some companies like Facebook and Twitter do say they use exif data for analytics and other business purposes.”

Remember the Exif data typically travel with photos you text or email, so keep that in mind when you’re sharing.

Prefer to just remove the Exif Data from your photos all together? Click here.