To Remove or Not to Remove Exif Metadata?

Why ExifCleaner?

ExifCleaner is a batch Windows utility that enables to remove Exif, as well as to erase other types of photographic metadata like Adobe XMP, IPTC, JPEG comments, geotags and so on. With its help you may preview Exif data before removing, and then you can choose specific tags you want to get rid of. The Windows Explorer integration and portable edition are designed and very-very handy for frequent use of ExifCleaner.

When It Is Recommended to Remove Exif

Here is the list of cases when it is recommended to remove Exif and/or other metadata from photos:

  • For privacy reasons, selectively remove Exif and other metadata if you want to post a photo on the Web, and do not want to disclosure your personal information. To learn more about possible issues and threats, watch the following video:
  • If you have edited the photo: when you crop, retouch, or alter photo in some other way, keep in mind that some editors do not update an internal Exif thumbnail. So if you do not want to fall into a trouble like Cat Schwartz, it may be a good idea to delete only that ineffective thumbnail from a file.
  • When you do photomontage, you often combine several pictures into one. It is necessary to remove metadata that is left of the very first photo.
  • Removing all metadata gives up to 100 kilobytes off a size per each file. It is advised to apply ExifCleaner to save server bandwidth and disk space when publishing low-resolution, or large number of photos on the Internet.

When It Is Not Recommended to Remove Metadata from Photos

We do not recommend to remove metadata in these cases:

  • Do not use ExifCleaner to violate someone’s copyright and authors’ rights — it may result in prosecution in a court of law, penalties, and it can even bring you to jail.
  • If you want to share some technical details of a snap with your colleagues, or with curious site visitors, it is a good idea to not remove Exif.

Why Is ExifCleaner Better Than the Built-in Windows Vista/7 Feature “Remove Properties and Personal Information”?

If you are a user of the modern Windows version like Vista or 7, you most probably know, that the operating system now includes a feature for removing unwanted metadata from a file. In order to take advantage of it, follow these steps:

  1. Open the photo in Windows Explorer.
  2. Right-click the file icon and select Properties.
  3. On the Details tab, click Remove Properties and Personal Information. This opens the Remove Properties window:

    Screenshot of the Windows Vista Remove Properties window

    Screenshot of the Windows Vista Remove Properties window

  4. Comply with the instructions and click OK to apply.

Unfortunately, that feature has a few issues. First of all, it deals only with Exif, while ExifCleaner handles Exif and many other types of metadata. In the second place, the feature removes only very limited number of all possible tags, even if you choose “Create a copy with all possible properties removed”. And perhaps the main reason to not use it — the Windows feature leaves actual data intact, but only corrupts metadata headers in a some special way, thus not changing result file size not for a single byte:

Binary comparison of two JPEG photos: the original one is to the left, and the cleaned by the Windows facilities is to the right

Binary comparison of two JPEG photos: the original one is to the left, and the cleaned by the Windows facilities is to the right