When you take a picture, most digital devices will store at least some metadata (known as EXIF data) connected to that image. Depending on the device, this could include location coordinates, date, time, device model and manufacturer, and settings used to take the image. If you post that image online as is, snoopers have full access to that data, causing privacy issues for the owner and subjects of the image.
Thankfully, it’s relatively straightforward to remove metadata from images before you make them public. It’s also a good idea to remove any potentially sensitive information from images that are stored in an unsecured location such as in an unencrypted cloud platform or on the device itself. You may even be able to change the settings on your device such that limited metadata is stored by default.
In this post, we reveal more about the types of metadata associated with images and why you should remove this information. We also provide step-by-step instructions for removing metadata from images on a range of devices and explain how you can go about changing settings to ensure no location data is stored in the first place.
What is EXIF metadata and what are the risks?
Most images captured on a digital device will have some metadata stored with them. This data is stored in a format named EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format). The data associated with an image will depend on the device used to capture it as well as any programs that may have been used to alter or edit it. Some information you can expect to see includes:
- Location information in the form of GPS coordinates
- Date and time the image was taken
- Model and manufacturer of the device
- Settings such as aperture, shutter speed, and ISO speed
- Name and version of editing tools used
While much of this data is fairly harmless, some of it can present privacy risks. For example, if you frequently post images to social media, then location, date, and time information could help snoopers track where you tend to be on a certain day or at a particular time.
See also; A Picture is Worth a Thousand Data Points
Stalkers could determine your whereabouts in real-time and government agencies could track your exact location. One famous example involved John McAfee (founder of McAfee antivirus) who was tracked down by authorities after an unscrubbed image of him was posted online.
How to remove metadata from photos
In this section, we’ll reveal how to remove metadata from photos on the most popular operating systems: Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. Note that the steps may vary depending on your specific device model and operating system version.
How to remove image metadata on Windows without an app
Windows allows you to remove EXIF metadata from single or multiple image files. Here are the steps:
- Navigate to the folder holding the images you want to edit.
- Select the file (or files) you wish to delete metadata from.
- Right-click and select Properties, then Details.
- Select Remove Properties and Personal Information.
- Click Create a copy with all possible properties removed.
- Select OK and that’s it.
Note that this option will create a copy of the image file with no metadata. The original file will remain intact on your computer. If you’d rather not make a copy and simply scrub the file, choose Remove the following properties from this file in step 3. Then select the items you want to remove individually or click Select All to remove all items, before hitting OK.
One thing we did notice when removing metadata from the original file is that the created date remains, whereas the other option replaces the created date with today’s date. If you want to make sure you remove the created date, you’re better off creating the copied file and then deleting the original.
How to remove image metadata on Windows with an app
Some Windows users have had issues with Windows not removing all metadata. If this is an issue for you, there is the option to use a third-party app.
One popular app for removing metadata in Windows is FileMind QuickFix. Here are the steps for using this app:
- Download and install the app from a reputable software site.
- Drag the files you wish to scrub onto the FileMind QuickFix interface.
- Click the Quick Fix Metadata button in the bottom-left corner.
Once the app has completed the data scrub, you will see a new file appear in the same folder as the original. By default, the app creates a copy of the original file. This is good if you want to still be able to access the metadata, but if you’d rather not keep the original, this can be adjusted in the app settings.
How to remove image metadata on Mac
For Mac users, things are a little less straightforward. You do have the option to view EXIF data but the only item you can remove is location data. To remove the remaining data, you’ll need to use a third-party app such as ImageOptim.
To remove location data, open the image in Preview, select Tools > Show Inspector, and click the information (i) tab. If there is no GPS tab here, your image has no location data associated with it. If there is a GPS tab, select it and click Remove Location Info.
Want to remove more than just the location? We’ll show you how to use ImageOptim. But before we start, it’s important to note that as soon as you drag images into the ImageOptim interface, all metadata will be irretrievably scrubbed. As such, if there’s some data you want to hold onto, it’s worth spending some time tweaking your settings before you start, or keep a backup copy of images in case you need the metadata later.
Here’s how to remove the remaining metadata using ImageOptim.
- Download the ImageOptim app from the tool’s website.
- Go to Preferences and adjust the app settings as needed.
- Drag your images into the ImageOptim window and the app does the rest for you.
How to remove image metadata on iOS
For iOS users, the operating system itself doesn’t come with the built-in ability to edit or remove photo metadata. It is possible to remove EXIF information using the Shortcuts app (which often comes automatically installed on iOS devices), but the setup is a little convoluted. A simpler way to edit or remove photo metadata on iOS is to use a third-party app.
There are quite a few available, the best ones charging a small fee. For the instructions below, we’re using the ViewExif app (priced at $0.99) by Skyjos, a company responsible for several highly-rated file explorer and FTP manager apps. Another option is Exif Metadata. It’s a bit pricier (pay a one-time fee of $3.99 to unlock the full range of features), but it offers additional functionality and has a slightly more intuitive interface.
Here’s how to remove photo metadata on iOS with ViewExif:
- Download and install the ViewExif app from the App Store.
- Open the app and you will see a prompt to allow ViewExif to access your photos. You can choose to allow it to access all photos or just those you select.
- If you choose the latter, you will be directed to your photos where you can select the ones you wish to edit.
- Once you’ve selected your photos or albums, hit Done.
- Now select the photo you wish to edit.
- Select the eraser tool and hit Remove Metadata.
- You’ll see a prompt requesting permission for the app to modify the photo. Select Modify and the metadata will be removed.
The ViewExif app also includes the option to share images directly from the app with or without metadata.
Note: There is a delete option within this app. Using this will completely delete an image from your iCloud storage, not just from the app.
How to remove image metadata on Android
As with iOS, the only way to remove metadata from your images on an Android device is to use an app. One of the most popular for this purpose is Photo Metadata Remover – Clear Exif Metadata (which we’ll use below) but another common choice is Photo Exif Editor – Metadata Editor. Both of these apps let you remove metadata for free.
We like Photo Metadata Remover because it gives you the option to take a metadata-free photo from within the app, eliminating the extra step of editing afterward. It also gives you the option to remove metadata from a whole album of photos at once.
Note that by default, the scrubbed images will be placed in a new file and the original will remain on your device. You can change this in settings such that you don’t keep the originals.
Here are the steps to remove photo metadata with Photo Metadata Remover – Clear Exif Metadata:
- Download and install the app on your device.
- Open the app and you’ll see a few options: Choose Photos, Choose a Folder, or Take a Photo. To remove metadata from a single photo already in your library, select Choose Photos.
- You’ll be asked to give the app permission to access your photos. Hit Allow.
- Select the photo you wish to scrub and the app will automatically remove the metadata and let you know when the process is complete.
- You then have the option to hit Share the Image to send your photo using a different app, or simply select Done.
How to take photos without location data
Of course, life would be simpler if we didn’t have to remove metadata at all. If location data is your primary concern, you’ll be pleased to know that settings in both Android and iOS can be tweaked so that no location information is associated with your images.
How to take photos with no location data in iOS
To prevent your iOS device from adding location information to your images, follow these steps:
Related: How to secure your iPad or iPhone app permissions
How to take photos with no location data in Android
It’s similarly simple to change your camera location settings in Android. Here are the steps: