Google Photos Privacy Tips: Remove Location And Other Important Infos From The Images
Gone are the days when a digital image file provided the beautiful photo that you could see with your eyes after a physical print. No hidden data, no personal information, and no privacy concerns. Unfortunately, to your surprise, the trend has been changed. Now, a simple-looking image file could actually contain a lot more details about you, than you could ever imagine. When you take a photo, you could have a lot of hidden information about you, your geographical location, your device, date-time, all embedded into the file. This advent of digital photography is especially a shock for old age people and those who do not have much proficiency in photography, computers and technology.
Before you become upset about all those weird looking selfies you uploaded on Facebook, let me tell you one thing here. Thankfully, when you post an image on a social networking site such as Facebook, all the metadata information is automatically filtered and stripped out. This is a great security feature keeping in mind the user’s privacy and security. However, this is not so true for every other website. No matter which VPN you use, no matter how expensive security protection you use, your privacy is always at stake. A little ignorance on your part could leak considerable information about you to strangers or people spying your digital life.
If you’re an avid Google Photos user, it’s best to strip out any such privately-identifiable information, your geolocation details and device information from the photos. Before we move on to the actual steps, it is important to understand which information is gathered about you, what is the purpose of storing this information and what are the various ways to remove it yourself.
Image Metadata is the additional information embedded with an image. This information is related to production, editing and technical details about the image. Metadata is sometimes referred to as Exif Data.
Technical and production metadata is generally added by your digital camera. Editing metadata in contrast is added by your image editing/ processing software. Dedicated image editors such as Adobe Photoshop and GIMP add their own metadata when you process or convert an image. Simple image editing activities such as image resizing, image conversion, picture quality adjustment, photo enhancement, color set up, background removal/ replacement, could actually overwrite the existing metadata or add up new information to the existing record.
It is not that metadata is not useful for normal users. It helps people to identify and trace the source of an image. This is helpful for legal purposes. You could find out the original author of a photograph. Photographers can embed their own information with the file to claim copyrights.
Creation of metadata is not just limited to images. This is true for every single file type, especially the Office file formats. When you create a Word Document, a lot of additional information is stored alongside. Not only this information helps you get into depth about the nature of your document, but it can also make it quicker to search for the right file and come up with relevant search results. The descriptive keywords embedded into the document help you find the file quickly and easily.
Metadata are of two kinds. Internal metadata is commonly used across different file types. They are embedded into your file. JPEG, TIFF, PNG and DNG are some of the common file types that embed metadata inside the file. The second type, external metadata, is stored outside of the file. XMP, DMP and IPTC are some of its examples.
View & Edit Image Metadata Manually
You don’t really need a third-party metadata editor to view or edit individual file’s metadata. Windows provides basic information about each file’s metadata. You can view this information using the File Properties dialog. Keep in mind you can’t edit metadata of multiple files in bulk. You’ll need to edit metadata one by one for all the files. Therefore, this is not a feasible option if you’re planning to edit metadata for too many files in a short span of time.
To open the File Properties dialog, right-click an image file of your choice and choose Properties. Click on the Details tab. Windows will display different kinds of metadata such as title, tags, ratings, image height & width, company name, artwork author, creation and last write date, computer name, comments, and so on. Remember, you cannot edit all these fields. You can edit only some of the text fields such as comments, company name, author name, etc. Others are locked for editing (such as file date-time stamp, image height-width).
Remove Metadata Manually
Removing metadata is simple. In the File Properties dialog that we used in the previous example, click on the Details tab. Look for the link called Remove Properties and Personal Information at the bottom. The catch here is that you’ll need to perform this step for all the files.
Batch View, Edit and Remove Metadata Automatically
AnalogExif is a simple and freeware metadata editor that offers tons of useful features and doesn’t cost you even a single penny. Unlike other freeware metadata editors that charge you for bulk editing, AnalogExif does not restrict its users and provides this feature completely free.
- Free-of-cost and open-source
- Edit different metadata types including EXIF, IPTC and XMP
- Supports innumerable image formats including TIFF and JPEG
- Equipment library is available. You can capture and store metadata properties from your analog equipment and film cameras.
- Supports batch auto-filling of metadata as well as batch auto-filling exposure number
- Batch view your metadata in a single window
- Build XMP Schema such as file name, exposure no.
- Browse through equipment templates such as frames, film, camera lens, camera body, developer, author, and much more
- DSC digital photos are supported
- Batch copy metadata from another file
Now that you’re familiar with this tiny freeware utility, let’s begin with the actual procedure.
Download AnalogExif. The main program window is divided into three panels.
The first panel enables you to browse through the directory structure of your hard disk. Here, you can navigate through different directories and select a folder to display the containing list of all image files. AnalogExif supports both file system view and current folder view. At the bottom of the files list, you can see the instant preview of your selected image file.
The second panel is about file details. It will show up the metadata associated with your selected file. For example: A photo captured from a Canon camera might come up with the following predefined metadata:
- Manufacturer: Canon
- Model: EOS 30
- Film Type: 135
The third panel gives you a list of equipment, film so that you can change the values accordingly. When you make changes to a metadata field, it will be automatically marked in bold to distinguish from pre-defined metadata.
After removing everything off from your metadata fields, don’t forget to save the changes. Click the Save button or use the toolbar icons on the top to save the changes you’ve made. If you’ve made any accidental changes, click on the Revert button to get back to the original values.
Vikas Medhekar is a tech enthusiast. He has accomplished MBA in Financial Markets and MCom in Management. He loves writing blogs on technology & computers to help users make their digital life easier.