What is metadata, and its role in fact-finding | Technology News


Checking photo metadata is essential in fact-finding to ensure accuracy, authenticity, and context of visual information.

Metadata for pictures lurks behind most electronic photographs. (Illustration: Pixabay)

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Metadata plays an important role in fact-checking. Usually described as ‘data about other data’, it provides essential information such as the origin, context, and the history of a piece of text or image. There are various types of metadata that can be associated with digital assets. These include, text metadata, photo metadata, audio metadata, video metadata, geospatial metadata, time metadata, file system metadata, social media metadata and web metadata.

In today’s column, we explain what photo metadata is, how it is used, and how it can help in fact-checking.

Photo metadata

Photo metadata is the information and specific details concerning a particular image file. This information often includes the date on which the image was taken, author, file name, content, phone or the camera used to take the picture, and sometimes even the location. It is known as EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) data.

Can the photo metadata be removed or edited?

Yes. It is very easy to edit or remove the metadata from a picture. If you want to post a picture without the metadata on a social media platform all you have to do is post a screenshot of the picture.

Checking photo metadata is essential in fact-finding to ensure accuracy, authenticity, and context of visual information. It is a critical step in the process of verifying and validating photographic evidence in a world where digital manipulation and misinformation are prevalent.

For example: The following picture was shot on an iPhone 13

Photo taken on an iPhone 13

Here’s how you can find metadata of this picture:

There are several online EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) data or metadata viewers available online; we decided to try one, ‘jimpl.com’. Uploading the picture in Jimpl gave the metadata of the picture, including the location.

You can remove metadata from an image using a tool like jimpl

There are several other metadata viewers available online. All you have to do is type, ‘exif viewer online’ or ‘metadata viewer online’, this would pull up some free metadata viewers.

A popular example of tracking Exif data is two photos of former US president Donald Trump during the Covid pandemic. Two images released by the White House in October 2020 showed Trump signing papers in the Walter Reed Hospital. There was a lot of controversy around these two images on whether or not the hospitalized president was actually getting the work done or if he and his staff had staged a fake photoshoot. After experts studied the Exif data on these pictures, it was found that both these pictures were taken just 10 minutes apart, with Trump sitting in two different locations and in two completely different outfits.

Screenshot taken from article by Patrick Hall for https://fstoppers.com/

Metadata for pictures lurks behind most electronic photographs. It has proved helpful in uncovering the truth in many cases and hence makes up for an important step in online verification of pictures.

© IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd

First published on: 25-11-2023 at 13:16 IST


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