Is your smartphone embedding location info with your pics?

Modern smartphones have a GPS chip capable of inserting coordinates of your location when you take pictures. Some people find this handy, it can help automate the construction of libraries based on places, instead of library names or dates. Personally, I don’t like it. After all, if I share a file with someone at my work or the random internet, personal information may be embedded into the image.

It’s called EXIF Data, you can read the technical schematics here; but for now, just know it stands for “exchangeable image file format” and affords a way for tags like audio and location information to be attached to an image in one single file. Metadata from your camera such as:

  • Data/time
  • Camera settings (ISO, Zoom, etc)
  • Thumbnail for preview on the camera’s LCD screen
  • Copyright information
  • Geolocation

Not only do regular smartphones do this, but your average camera is likely capable of embedding this information into your pictures. If you’re security/privacy conscious, it’s handy to know how to disable this.

For iOS:ios

  • Tap Settings
  • Tap Privacy
  • Tap Location Services
  • If your “General Location Services” are turned on, you can modify the individual ones, such as App Store, and others. Including Camera.
  • Slide the ‘on/off’ toggle next to Camera to “Off” to turn location tagging off for the Camera. Use this for any camera app you have installed, modifying the stock camera app will not change all others.

For Android:

  • Open your phone’s camera app.
  • Open the settings of the camera app.
  • Look for “Location Tagging”; turn it off.

“But my photo library already has EXIF location tagging information in it. How can I remove it?”

You’re in luck! There are quite a few utilities available which will let you do this.

For Windows:

Download Microsoft Pro Photo Tools v2 here. It’s free, no adware or bloatware and will let you edit or remove the metadata to your heart’s content.

For OS X:

Download ImageOptim here. It’s free and allows you to drag-n-drop your image libraries to strip the metadata. You can also use this to automagically resize images so they retain quality but have less file size.

For Linux:

Just run:

sudo apt-get install libimage-exiftool-perl

Then to remove the meta data:

exiftool -all= *.jpg

It will make copies of your photos, and append _original to the originals (with the metadata still intact).

There are a lot of programs out there which will do this, and some may be easier for you than the ones I’ve suggested. If you come across a service or software (app) that is very easy, let me know!