I was asked an intriguing question the other day. It was something I had never considered but got me thinking enough to find out an answer and share it with TechJunkie readers. The question was ‘Does Instagram remove EXIF data from images? I want to make sure that Instagram and Facebook doesn’t collection location or other data from images I upload’.
It was actually difficult to find out the answer but I am confident that I have.
What is EXIF data?
First, let’s cover what EXIF data actually is so you have a better idea of why the question is important. EXIF data is metadata that is embedded into every picture you take. Depending on the device you use to take the picture, it can include the camera type, date, time, GPS coordinates, camera settings and even copyright information.
EXIF stands for Exchangeable Image File Format and covers all the data above. It is separate from the image data within a JPEG file and will be included within the JPEG. It will collect and embed data automatically. It can also be supplemented manually using photo editing software like Photoshop.
EXIF data is no evil but it can give a little too much away. If you’re using your phone camera and you have GPS enabled, EXIF may contain the GPS coordinates of where the picture was taken. If you’re the security conscious type, you don’t want this ending up on the internet.
To view EXIF data of an image, right click and select Properties in Windows. If you’re a Mac user you will need to use Inspector to view EXIF. Both OS offer the ability to remove location data. Windows allows you to go further and remove all private data by selecting the Details tab and selecting Remove Properties and Personal Information at the bottom.
Back to the original question.
Does Instagram remove EXIF data from your posts?
It was impossible to find a definite answer but from talking to a couple of professional photographers who use Instagram, the answer seems to be yes, Instagram does remove EXIF data from images.
When an image is uploaded to any social network it is compressed and often changes format. Most, if not all, EXIF data is removed during this process so personal data will be stripped out during the upload. This is the same for both automatically generated EXIF data and any manually edited EXIF data added using a photo editor.
This includes any copyright information which purely coincidentally means the social network in question avoids any liability issues should the image end up elsewhere.
Manually strip EXIF data from images before uploading
If you don’t want to rely on social networks to remove EXIF data from your images before you upload them, you can do it manually. Depending on what method you use you can remove most of the data before you upload the image to the internet.
- Select the image and right click.
- Select Properties and the Details tab.
- Select Remove Properties and Personal Information at the bottom.
- Select the options to remove in the next window and select OK.
You cannot remove all EXIF data from the image but you have more control than you do on a Mac.
In Mac OS:
- Select the image and open it.
- Select Tools and Show Inspector.
- Select the GPS tab and Remove Location Info from the bottom.
Mac OS only allows you to remove location data from EXIF. To remove more you’re going to need an image editor.
To remove much more EXIF data on either Mac or Windows, you will need to use an image editor. Most programs will do the job but GIMP  is my tool of choice. It works on Windows, Mac and Linux and is free, powerful and regularly updated.
- Open the image in GIMP.
- Select File and Export As.
- Select the file extension you want to save it as.
- Select Export. This brings up a new window.
- Select Advanced Options and uncheck the box next to Save EXIF Data.
- Select Export to complete the save and EXIF removal.
It may be easier to turn off location data if you’re using a smartphone. You can do this from the camera app settings in Android and from Privacy in iOS. Toggle location off and any image you take from that moment on will not contain location data within your EXIF. It may still contain other data but at least the GPS coordinates won’t be amongst it!