iOS Strips EXIF Data When Uploading Images from Web Forms

Wednesday, March 30, 2016
by Shorebird.org

One of the features of Shorebird.org is the ability to obtain location information from the images uploaded to the site. Many cameras and most smart phones have the ability to store location data embedded in the actual photo file. The embedded information uses a standard called 'EXIF', which stands for Exchangeable Image File Format. The information stored using EXIF is vast, including GPS coordinates, elevation, time and date, shutter speed, camera type, etc. Our site parses the EXIF data from uploaded JPEG images to obtain the date and any GPS coordinates.

Unfortunately, if you upload your images directly from a device running Apple's iOS (iPhones and iPads), the EXIF (and corresponding location information) is stripped away first, preventing the site from reading the GPS data. If you are uploading photos from a camera without GPS capabilities, this isn't a huge deal. You can still use our 'drag-and-drop' pin to mark the location of where the photo was taken. However, if this information is already available, it's a shame to have to do go through the additional step of manually setting location information.

There is clearly some advantage of stripping EXIF data. There is an argument that it might be a privacy issue, and Apple has decided it's safest to remove this information. However, for our purposes, removing EXIF data is a hindrance. The way around the issue is fairly simple if you'd like to make use of your device's embedded location data. If the photo is located on your iOS device, you will need to email it to your computer (or non-iOS device), and upload it from there. That will leave the GPS and other photo information intact, and allows us to obtain the information automatically.

For the photos we post on the site, we do strip all EXIF data from those images, as we respect your privacy, and we display only the information about the image that provide.

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