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How to make your photos more private on social media

    • 1682 posts
    December 4, 2019 7:28 AM EST
    “A picture is worth a thousand words,” so the old adage goes. Today,
    with virtually all photos taken digitally and in higher quality, they
    hold more information than ever before.

    There’s a lot that we can glean from photos at face value: Who’s in it,
    what’s happening, and where. But with photos taken at higher definition,
    and on devices that track your location, people can learn more about
    your photo—and you—than perhaps you might want them to.

    What can people find out from your photos?

    Last year we wrote about a data experiment in which millions of cat
    images on hosting sites like Twitpic and Instagram were pinned on a map
    along with each cat’s location, determined from the latitude and
    longitude coordinates in the photos’ metadata. If it can be done with
    cats, it can be done with people, too.

    When your geotagging settings are turned on in your camera or camera
    app, the photos you take will have location data included in their
    metadata, down to the exact latitude and longitude. Anyone who has
    access to your photos can retrieve the metadata with little difficulty
    and can determine where you were when you took the photo.

    And with the quality of photos are becoming clearer with each new phone
    model, the task of stealing your biometric data is getting a little bit
    easier, in particular when it comes to your fingerprints. Real-world
    examples of identity theft using photos of fingers are virtually
    nonexistent, but in theory someone with an image of your fingerprint
    would be able to get into your phone that used fingerprint
    authentication.

    Lastly, and perhaps most alarmingly, a stalker once found a celebrity’s
    home through the reflection in her eyes alone and attacked her. While
    this is incredibly rare, it is still an example of how photos can give
    away information in the most unexpected ways.

    How to make your photos more private

    1. Strip the metadata

    Each photo taken on your device contains Exchangeable Image File (EXIF)
    data, which specifies the formatting of the photo as well as other
    details of the image like location data.

    The easiest way to remove this metadata is to disable geotagging on your
    devices to stop them from being tracked in the first place
    (iOS, Android).

    If your photos have location data attached to them, you can remove it
    retroactively via free and open-source programs. If you store your
    photos on Google photos, you can remove the location by simply flipping a
    toggle in its Settings.

    Read more about why you should remove metadata.

    2. Make your photos harder to access

    If your photos are already uploaded online and you don’t want to take
    them down, you can limit who can access them. Review the privacy
    settings of your accounts and albums that you upload to, and restrict
    access to the ones you don’t want everyone to see. Start with changing
    your privacy settings on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

    3. Refrain from posting sensitive photos, or remove them altogether

    Before you upload a photo, take a second to review the information
    that’s in the photo, from location data and people in the photos to
    identifiable information (for example, your #boardingpass). Is this
    information you want everyone following you to know?

    Reducing, if not removing, photos with sensitive information altogether
    can also reduce the chances of someone figuring out where you are. It
    may be a bummer, but the only way to effectively stop people from
    following you more closely than you want is to stop posting or remove
    photos, or privatize already public photos.

    Remove, restrict, and reduce

    Removing location metadata, restricting access to your account, and
    reducing the number of photos you post on your accounts is good practice
    for anyone who wants to take more control over who can see what they
    post online, and the information that’s tucked in the metadata.

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