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How to Scrub Identifying Info From Your Digital Pics

man photo editing
It's pretty easy to remove metadata from your photos. andresr/Getty Images

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If you've ever looked into a box of old family pictures and wondered where a particular photo was taken or when, you may appreciate modern digital cameras and smartphones that save all of that information for you. Those details are a digital image's metadata, and although it can be nice to have that information associated with the file, there may be times when you don't want that information attached. The same technology that can help you prove you're the copyright owner creates evidence you were in a particular place at a particular time. And you may not want that info to possibly get into the wrong hands.

The metadata associated with a digital image is stored in a format called Exchangeable Image File Format, better known as EXIF. This metadata includes latitude and longitude coordinates for where the picture was taken, date and time it was taken, and camera settings and programs used to edit the photo. Information embedded in a digital image can be even used to prove it was taken with a specific camera or smartphone.

If you'd like to remove that information, here's how:

  • On a Windows computer, go to the location of your photos, usually the Pictures folder.
  • Highlight the image for which you'd like to remove the metadata, and right-click on it.
  • Select Properties, then the Details tab.
  • At the bottom of that box, you'll see a link to Remove Properties and Personal Information. Click on that link.
  • Windows will also ask you whether you want to save a copy with the information still attached or remove the EXIF information from the original photo.

You can do multiple images at the same time by highlighting all photos you want to remove the metadata from at the same time and right-clicking.

If you have a Mac

  • Open the photo using Preview
  • Select Tools in your menu
  • Click Show Inspector
  • Select the (i) tab
  • Tap the GPS tab and remove the location info

If you click on the "EXIF" tab rather than the GPS tab, you can see all the metadata but you won't able to remove it. Luckily, there are many third-party tools that can help you removing metadata, particularly useful if you want to purge batches of photos. ExifTool, by Phil Harvey, is a free and open-source option for Windows, Mac, and Linux that will let you edit the metadata on your images. Another popular one is ImageOptim. A web tool called Image Scrubber is a great option for people who need to remove image metadata while they're on the go. Upload the image in your web browser and you can also blur parts of the image or brush parts out. When you download the image back to your phone, it will have any changes you made, and the EXIF information will be stripped, too. Image Scrubber says it doesn't save the photo or any other data when you use it.

Removing Metadata From the Smartphone Camera

For iPhones

  • Open the Photos app
  • Select the photo
  • Click Share
  • At the top of the screen next to Location, click Options
  • Toggle off Location or All Photo Data
  • Click Done

Android

  • Open the Gallery app
  • Select the intended image and click More (the three vertical dots)
  • Select Details
  • Click Edit
  • Delete Location and Save

If you want to get rid of all your metadata, you'll need to use a third party app to do that. But location data is generally what most people care about anyway:

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