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Metadata is something you’ve probably never given a moment’s thought – in fact, this may be the first time you’ve even heard of it. But whether you know it or not, you’ve definitely benefitted from the metadata contained in your photos. And you should also be careful about who you inadvertently share it with.
What is metadata?
That’s because every photograph you snap with an iPhone (or any other type of camera, for that matter) is tagged with details such as the time and date of the shot, as well as the type of device used and the exact location it was taken.
For the most part, it’s very useful – metadata is how the Photos app knows to order your shots chronologically, and its also how the For You tab is able to make a slideshow out of all the photos you took on vacation. Just take a look at the Places album in Photos and you’ll see every picture on your device laid out on a map. That’s metadata at work – pretty handy!
That doesn’t mean it should always be ignored, though. In fact, there is a very good reason why you might wish to manually edit the metadata attached to your pictures.
It’s worth remembering that every time you share a picture you’re also sharing its metadata. When you upload a photo to Facebook or Instagram, you’re inadvertently sharing additional information with those platforms. In particular, location data. That means those platforms can learn where you live and work, the places you frequent, where you go on vacation.
All this can be used to target ads, and in the case of a data breach it could mean that information ends up in the hands of dodgy third parties like Cambridge Analytica. Facebook is reportedly doing its best to ensure that kind of thing doesn’t happen again – but if you don’t trust the company, or you’d rather play it safe, it might be worth stripping this data from your photos before sharing them online.
It’s not just privacy at stake here – sometimes metadata can just be plain wrong, and it can be frustrating if inaccuracies mess up the way things are organized. This doesn’t happen often, but readers have told us of iOS incorrectly tagging times and locations after a round-the-world trip.
The problem is, iOS doesn’t allow users to edit the metadata of their photos. So what you can do?
How to edit metadata
Luckily, with the right tools, it’s quick and easy to adjust this data. There are several apps out there for inspecting a photo’s metadata – the best one we’ve found is Metapho.
It’s a free download, but requires a $4/£4 in-app purchase to unlock every feature. You’ll need to spring for this if you want to remove location data entirely, and it also enables a clever “safe share function” that temporarily removes metadata before sharing but leaves the original image as is.
When you open the app you’ll need to give it permission to view and edit your photos. We’d recommend enabling the extension when prompted, too – this will make the next step much easier.
Sharing without data
Once set up, you can easily view, edit, and share photos from within Metapho itself. Pick an image from the camera roll and you can see all of its data. Scroll to the bottom and tap Remove Metadata to delete it permanently, or tap the share button in the top right followed by Share without Metadata to temporarily remove it.
Alternatively, navigate to an image in the Photos app and open the share sheet. Choose Metapho from the bottom menu and tap the share button again from the top right. Select Share without Metadata and follow the prompts. We found this to be the least disruptive workflow for metadata removal.
Use a pro app
It’s also worth noting that pro camera app Halide is working on a feature that will automatically strip metadata away when sharing with Facebook or Instagram, but keep it intact when saving to your camera roll. It costs $6/£6, but Halide is a very decent app in its own right. If you care about this sort of thing it could tip the balance in favor of Halide over the stock iOS Camera app. Give it a look and decide for yourself.