Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Creative Use of Disparate Tools Makes It Easier Than Ever to Find Hidden Details in Photos

Jon Keegan, the Markup:

Stripping out the metadata in your photos is not too difficult. Here is a handy guide, but a simple trick is just to take a screenshot of your photo before posting it. The screenshot will contain metadata only about the time and location of the screenshot, not the time the photo was originally taken.

But metadata is not all you should be thinking about. Tools and techniques that were once available only to intelligence agencies to collect “open source intelligence” (known as OSINT in national security parlance) are now available to amateur sleuths. These techniques can be used to reveal personal identifying information in your photos, even if you have taken care to lock down your metadata.

For most people, most of the time, there probably isn’t a great reason to be quite this paranoid about what may be revealed in a photo. What is news here, I think, is not that the incidental features of a photo may be revealing, but that it is easier than ever to use those details. This concept is likely familiar to long-time players of GeoGuessr.