Metadata secretly exposes data. How to stop giving it away (safety)

Metadata secretly exposes data – yours. It is hidden in every photo, music, video, text, voice call, document, spreadsheet, and digital transmission. The problem is that criminals, stalkers, hackers, and others can use it to show where you are and what you are doing.

Let’s show you how metadata secretly exposes data

I took this lovely shot on the beach at Ettalong on the NSW Central Coast.

Buried in the metadata was:

  • Date/Time.
  • Photo details: Size, f-stop, ISO, Exposure, No flash.
  • Device used, including owner ID.
  • Device file path, including username.
  • GPS Latitude and longitude.

Similarly, a Word document (Microsoft 365) or PDF has metadata. It could reveal your employer’s name, your name, and your network file system for future hacking reference.

Metadata is dangerous

Let’s assume you are a typical social media user. You post a photo from your phone of your child’s birthday party. What you don’t realise is that criminals now know where you live and from social media, your children (and names/ages), what your home and assets look like and more.

Or you post a photo on a second-hand site to sell something. Metadata can give your location away, allowing criminals to steal it – happens all the time. The image is the data, and metadata is the iceberg – you don’t see what lies beneath.

How to avoid metadata

It is called metadata stripping, and it makes a clean copy of the digital file. Sometimes, photo metadata is called EXIF.

Windows – Photos, PDF, and Office 365 documents

Right-click on the image or file etc., and select properties and the details tab. At the bottom, click Remove Properties and Personal Information. It will pop up another window. Select Create a copy with all possible properties removed. You will find a new photo with the same name – Copy.

Android – photos

  • Find and open the image
  • Tap Share
  • Tap the Privacy and compatibility link (sometimes called Options) and select Privacy Protection and Remove other properties. You can turn location off in the camera app for future photos.
Metadata secretly exposes data

The only problem is that the photo becomes an unknown file type. Just rename it with a .jpg extension.

 Mac – Photos

  • Find the image
  • Open with Preview
  • Select Tools and Show Inspector
  • Under the GPS tab, click remote location information. You cannot remove any other metadata (without a third-party program).

All operating systems

A screen grab or snip removes metadata from web pages and photos.

iOS – Photos

You cannot strip location data from previously taken photos but can turn it off for future photos.

Third-party apps

Most third-party apps allow you to strip the data from an entire folder of photos in a batch and create metadata-free copies.


Photo Metadata Remover (tested) allows single or batch metadata stripping. There is a free advert-supported or a paid ad-free version.

Windows, Mac, and Linux

XnView MP (multi-platform) is a fully featured photo editor with batch mode to take single images or a whole folder and strip metadata, creating a copy in a new folder. It is fast and reliable and is not spyware. It converted 3743 files/1GB of photos in about 5 minutes on a 32GB/i7 Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio 2.

iOS (not tested)

EXIF Metadata will remove metadata.

CyberShack’s view – Metadata secretly exposes data. It is yours, so why give it away?

To my horror, my children and grandchildren had metadata all over Facebook and Instagram. It was not everything—Facebook keeps that to itself for its user profiles. However, the exact details of which specific EXIF data Facebook removes or retains are not publicly disclosed.

My adult children immediately locked down their profiles and disabled location data.

A friend uses TikTok and has been told that removing metadata prevents videos from being indexed and recommended. It says that it requires Metadata to prove ownership. TikTok also adds an invisible watermark to track reposting. TikTok is nothing more than a data harvester sending your information to China.

Our advice – remove metadata from any public posting.