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Home / Tips and Tricks / Delete and obscure identifying information in your protest photos to enable more anonymous exchanges. «Smartphones :: Gadget Hacks

Delete and obscure identifying information in your protest photos to enable more anonymous exchanges. «Smartphones :: Gadget Hacks



Every single photo you take contains a substantial amount of what is apparently "invisible" yet important information known as metadata. Although metadata is usually helpful to sort your photos by place and date, the same information could potentially be used against you, especially if the pictures were taken in a precarious situation.

The nationwide protests against the murder of George Floyd by police officers were full of pain and anger. Peaceful street demonstrations became violent when rioters and looters kidnapped them, and smartphones everywhere recorded everything that went under.

Unfortunately, any photos you take during a protest or march may contain EXIF ​​data that law enforcement officers may have. Use this option to track where and when the photo was taken. If you post a picture of a protest online, you may not only be in the crosshairs of the police regardless of your innocence, but you may also endanger the people in your photos.

There are several ways to remove EXIF ​​data, there is a tool that goes beyond cleaning up this metadata. The best thing is that it works on any platform, so you can use it whether you have an Android phone or an iPhone.

Image Scrubber was created by developer Everest Pipkin and anonymized photos taken during protests and rallies by removing all metadata from them. It also has quick editing tools that can be used to blur faces, addresses, distinguishable clothing, and other information in photos to identify you, others, or places. If you take precautions and maintain the anonymity of you and everyone else, you don't have to worry about what you post or share and where.

Step 1
: Upload a photo to Image Scrubber

Anyone can access Image Scrubber as it is Currently only available through your web browser. Visit everestpipkin.github.io/image-scrubber in any mobile browser, tap "Open Image" in the top left corner and choose how you want to import an image. You can immediately take a photo or upload one from your inventory gallery or file manager. When you find the image, tap it to load it.

Note that you can select videos, not just pictures. However, when you select a movie file, a tool opens that requires you to select the frame of the video to use as a compressed still image. However, we've found that it doesn't work very well (or not at all) on Android, but it works great on iOS.

Step 2: Checking and deleting EXIF ​​data

If none in the image EXIF data is saved, this is displayed and you can continue to edit the image. If EXIF ​​data is available, it is displayed as a long text thread on the screen. While you may not understand everything, browsing will reveal information such as the make and model of your camera, software version, acquisition date, geotagged position, and more.

To permanently delete the EXIF ​​data from the photo, tap the "Scrub Exif Data" button at the bottom of the screen. A popup will appear confirming the deletion. Tap "Close" or "OK" to continue.

Step 3: Obscured information in the photo

Now you can use the brush tool Blur faces and other objects in your photo. First choose the brush type you want from the three available options: "Paint" (black is the only color), "Blur" (the radius can be fine-tuned) and "Undo" (eraser for the) previous two options) .

Black color is fairly intuitive, so in our example, we'll quickly show the blur tool. Tap and touch and drag across the area of ​​the image that needs to be obfuscated. As soon as you let go, the blur effect appears. However, it may take a few seconds for the image to be processed.

If the blur looks strange, you can set the "blur radius" to an intensity that looks better. Here it can take a few tries and mistakes to find the right radius, which you can then use for all of the following images. However, note the following:

The blur function has built-in pixelation and noise and is quite irreversible. However, very sensitive information should be covered with the paint tool.

– Everest Pipkin (the developer)

To blur or black color the image to remove, tap Undo and drag over the image edited to remove it. You also have the option to "Rotate Image" using the tool at the top of the screen that rotates the image clockwise in 90-degree increments. A rotation is only an advantage if it is uploaded to the website incorrectly or if you took the photo in a different orientation than expected.

Step 4: Save your edited image

If you are using blurs, black Color and rotations are done, save the photo by tapping on "Save Image" above. Depending on your device, what happens here is different.

For example, if you are using an iPhone and are using Safari, a pop-up window appears asking if you want to view or download the image. When you view it, it opens on the same tab. From there, you can save it in your photo app using the sharing sheet. If you download it, it will be placed in the default folder in the files you specified.

On most Android devices, the image will be downloaded immediately after you click "Save Image". Then a link to open is displayed. The image will be saved in your default folder for download.

Step 5: Check whether the metadata has been deleted (optional)

. Your photo will now be obfuscated as required and all EXIF ​​data will be removed. If you want to make sure your photo is clean, run it again through Image Scrubber. When searching for metadata, only a few useless information is displayed, with which nobody can really link directly to you.

You can also try to view the location using your smartphone's native photo app, which usually shows the coordinates. Below you can see that the location is missing in the iPhone photo app (a map and address are usually shown directly above "Show in all photos").

Pipkin also mentions that Image Scrubber does not share your information anywhere. While your image is uploaded to the web app for the first time with intact metadata, image processing is only done in the web browser on your device, so you don't have to worry. You can check the source code at Pipkins GitHub if you tend to.

Step 6: Add Image Scrubber to your home screen (optional)

If you want to use the Image Scrubber tool a lot, a bookmark in your browser may not be enough. Instead, you can create a shortcut as an icon on your home screen. Every browser is different, but always very simple.

If you need help creating a home screen shortcut for Image Scrubber, read our instructions on how to do that with Safari, Google Chrome, and Firefox. Other browsers will be similar. We noticed that the app icon looks better on Android than iOS, but maybe one day this will change.

It is important to keep this in mind Simply scrubbing the photo of its EXIF ​​data and blurred faces cannot fully protect you, and there are many other steps that you should do to make sure. If you publish these photos online, you should consider using an anonymous account, connecting to a VPN when posting, and disabling social media sharing when posting from home or work.

Don't miss: End oversharing & reduce your online footprint with these 9 Instagram privacy tips.

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