Simplified Privacy

How Smartphone Photos Leak Your GPS Location

When you take a picture with a smartphone, it automatically puts your location within the picture’s metadata using the phone’s GPS. Metadata is information about a file, and anyone with the file can view this data, which not only includes the location but other information, such as the exact model of the phone and the time the picture was taken.

The technical name for this metadata, including location, is EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format). This EXIF data is a huge privacy risk because it means anytime you post pictures that were taken on your smartphone to large social media platforms, then the big tech companies know where you physically were when the photo was taken. This means that large social media corporations have a database tracking where everyone lives.

EXIF metadata also raises huge issues with peer-to-peer sending of pictures. For example a woman might be inadvertently transmitting her location to a potential stalker off a dating app just by sending a selfie.

Now many social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram remove this GPS data from the picture because of the safety issue. However, you might be sending pictures on a platform that doesn’t or through your own professional website.

How to Remove EXIF data

We will show you both a Linux computer and an Android solution.

Android

For android, go to the F-Droid store. F-Droid is a competitor to the Google Play Store, but it only hosts free and open source apps. Get the app called Scrambled Exif. This app will allow you to easily remove all EXIF location data before sharing or posting a picture.

Another possible solution is within the degoogled phone’s settings, you can eliminate the ability to use location data in general, as well as deny the camera permission to use it. Calyx OS and Graphine OS will both have this option.

Linux

For Linux, we recommend a free and open source program called ImageMagick which uses Mogrify. To download this software, go to your package manager. So for example in Linux Mint, you’d be opening Synaptic Package Manger and searching for “ImageMagick.”

Once you have the software, go to the directory with the image and use this command to strip the location:

mogrify -strip your_filename.jpg

Obviously you’d want to change the “your_filename” to the file’s actual name.

If you want to strip all the files in the folder of EXIF data, then run this command:

mogrify -strip ./*.jpg

Remember if you are having difficulty using the command line to get to the folder you want, then you can right-click on space inside the folder and select “Open in Command Line”. However, the availability of this feature will depend on which Linux distribution you’ve chosen.

Phone Service To Hide Location

Click here to read our other article on how to get phone numbers and service anonymously. And to really learn about privacy, subscribe for free to our new content by email, by Session messenger, via RSS feed, our Ethereum push notification channel, or on Twitter replacement Nostr.

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