Thursday, March 11, 2021

Facebook Gets Location From EXIF

Zak Doffman (via DuckDuckGo):

When you upload your photos to Facebook or Instagram, most metadata is stripped out and replaced by Facebook’s own codes. The date and time remain, but the location data does not. This is a major privacy benefit, you don’t want others to download your Facebook or Instagram photos and have details of where you live or work, for example, or to map your movements by the photos you’ve taken.

But that location metadata is not thrown away by Facebook—it is way too valuable. It is harvested, “collected and processed” to be added to the data treasure trove it holds on each of us. Let’s be very clear here, in your iPhone’s “Location Services” settings, under “Privacy,” you can select to “never” allow Facebook access to your location. This shuts down the Facebook app’s access to the location derived from the iPhone itself when using the app or in background. But Facebook still uses this hidden EXIF workaround and it’s your data that is being taken, with most of you not realising it’s being done.


Facebook acknowledged to me that it collects and processes EXIF data—it’s in its data policy, if you know where to look. But its explanation to me focused on technical data to better handle images—it did not want to be drawn on location data, which is the real issue.

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