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Home / Tips and Tricks / Erase and cover up identifying information in your protest photos for more anonymous sharing «Smartphones :: Gadget Hacks

Erase and cover up identifying information in your protest photos for more anonymous sharing «Smartphones :: Gadget Hacks



Every photo you take contains a significant amount of seemingly "invisible" yet important information known as metadata. While metadata is usually helpful in sorting your photos by location and date, the same information may be used against you, especially if the photos are taken in a precarious situation.

The protests that took place across the country after the murder of George Floyd of police officers are fraught with pain and anger. Peaceful street demonstrations turned violent when rioters and looters hijacked them, and smartphones everywhere were recording everything that happened.

Unfortunately, photos taken during a protest or march may contain EXIF ​​data that law enforcement officers may use to track where and when the photo was taken. Posting an image of a protest online can not only put you in the crosshairs of the police regardless of your innocence, but it can also put the people in your photos at risk.

While there are several ways to delete EXIF ​​data, there is a tool that goes beyond scrubbing that metadata. Best of all, it works on any platform, so you can use it whether you have an Android phone or iPhone.

Image Scrubber, created by developer Everest Pipkin, anonymizes photos taken during protests and meetings by removing all metadata from them. Plus, it has quick editing tools to blur out faces, addresses, distinctive clothing, and other information in photos that can help identify you, others, or locations. By taking precautions and maintaining the anonymity of you and everyone, you don't have to worry about what you post or share and where.

Step 1
: Load a Photo into Image Scrubber

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

Note that you can select videos, not just images. But if you choose a movie file, a tool will open where you have to select the frame of the video whose compressed still image you want to be. However, we found that it doesn't work very well (if at all) on Android, but it works great on iOS.

Step 2: View and delete all EXIF ​​files data

If no EXIF ​​data is stored in the image, this is indicated and you can continue editing the image. If there is EXIF ​​data, it will appear on the screen as a long string of text. While you may not fully understand it, you'll see information such as your camera's make and model, software version, date captured, geocoded location, and much more.

To permanently delete the EXIF ​​data from the photo, tap the "Scrub Exif Data" button at the bottom of the screen. A pop-up will appear confirming the removal; tap "Close" or "OK" to continue.

Step 3: Cover up information in the photo [19659007] Now you can use the brush to blur faces and other objects in your photo. First choose the type of brush you want from the three options available, including "Paint" (black is the only color), "Blur" (the beam can be fine-tuned), and "Undo" (your eraser for the previous two options)

Black paint is quite intuitive, so we'll quickly show the Blur tool in our example. Tap it and tap and drag your finger over the part of the photo to be obscured. Once you release it, the blur effect will appear, but it may take a few seconds to process the image.

If the blur looks weird, you can adjust the "Blur Radius" to an intensity that looks better. It can take some trial and error here to find the right beam, which you can then use on all of the following images. Note, however, that:

The blur feature has built-in pixelization and noise and is quite irreversible – but very sensitive information should be covered with the paint tool.

– Everest Pipkin (The Developer)

Step 4: Save your edited image ” width=”532″ height=”532″ style=”max-width:532px;height:auto;”/>
  19659007] When you're done with blur, black paint, and rotations, save the photo by tapping "Save Picture" at the top. What happens here depends on your device. </p>
<p>  For example, if you are using an iPhone and are using Safari, a pop-up will appear asking if you want to view or download the image. When you view it, it will open in the same tab and from there you can save it to your Photos app using the share sheet. When you download it, it will be placed in the default folder in <a href= in the files you have set up.

On most Android devices, the image will be downloaded immediately after tapping "Save Image", with a link to open it after finishing. The photo is saved in your default downloads folder.

Step 5: Verify that the metadata has been erased (optional)

Your photo is now obfuscated and removed from all EXIF ​​data as needed. If you want to make sure your photo is clean, run it again through Image Scrubber. When it searches for metadata, it will only show a bit of useless information that no one can really use to link directly to you.

You can also try to look at the location through your smartphone's native photos app, which is usually the coordinates. Below you can see the location is missing from the Photos app for iPhone (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. However, while your image is first uploaded to the web app with intact metadata, the image processing will only take place in the web browser on your device, so don't worry. You can view the source code, if you feel like it, on Pipkin & # 39; s GitHub.

Step 6: Add Image Scrubber to Your Home Screen (Optional)

If you plan to use the Image Scrubber to work a lot, a bookmark in your browser may not be enough. Instead, you can create a shortcut to it as an icon on your home screen. Every browser is different, but it is always fairly straightforward.

If you need help creating a home screen shortcut for Image Scrubber, check out our guides on this with Safari, Google Chrome, and Firefox. Other browsers will be similar. We found that the "app" icon looks better on Android than on iOS, but maybe that will change one day.

It's important to note that just scrubbing the photo from the EXIF ​​data and blurring faces can't completely protect you , and there are many other steps you need to take to stay safe. If you post these photos online, you should consider using an anonymous account, connecting to a VPN while posting, and disabling social media location sharing when posting from your home or workplace.

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