Removing location data from photos

Smartphones make collecting memories with their built-in camera a snap, pardon the pun. They also record the location of each photo with their GPS and other locating technology. This makes sharing easy and fun, and we can demonstrate our unfailing knack of remembering just where each picture was taken.

There are photos, however, the locations of which should not be shared for safety or privacy reasons. Removing the GPS coordinates may be prudent at times.

When the photos are transferred to your computer the location information and other metadata is retained in the photo files.

RemoveGPSdata-1When viewed in Windows Live Photo Gallery the coordinates are translated into location descriptions. Normally the town name is displayed under “Geotag” and when the pointer is moved to the location the exact street address is shown. RemoveGPSdata-1-1

There is a convenient “X” after the location information and the tooltip says “Remove” (The location description in the illustration has been changed.) Click the “X” and the location is removed and replaced with “Add geotag”.

Unfortunately, the GPS coordinate information is not removed this way. Only the location description is removed, the GPS metadata is still there. RemoveGPSdata-1aYou can see this by right-clicking the thumbnail and opening “Properties”. In the details tab, the GPS section still shows the exact location (the illustrations have been partially “censored”).

The Properties dialog offers a link to “Remove Properties and Personal Information”. RemoveGPSdata-1bThe Remove Properties dialog has two options, “Create a copy with all possible properties removed” and “Remove the following properties from this file:”. This later option shows checkboxes so you can pick the data to be removed, including GPS Latitude and Longitude.

There is, sadly, a serious flaw in Windows. Neither method works to remove the GPS data. With GPS data present there is always an error message. RemoveGPSdata-1cNo amount of “Try Again” will succeed. “Cancel” brings up the confirming message that “Not all personal properties were cleared”. RemoveGPSdata-1dWhen you check the properties again you will find the GPS data is still there. This flaw has existed for a long time and is still present in Windows 8 Release Candidate, so it is not likely to get fixed.

How to remove GPS data from your photos

RemoveGPSdata-2bThere is, of course, an easy solution. It is provided by Picasa. In Picasa there is a little red pin icon on each thumbnail that has GPS information in the file. The location of the photo is shown by a pin in a map (enable the Places Panel by clicking the pin icon in the lower right). RemoveGPSdata-2c

The map can be zoomed and moved. You can also select satellite view and see the aerial view of your subject.

Click the pin in the map and a little panel with information pops up. This includes a link to “Erase location information”.

Clicking this link removes the location information from the photo file.

It turns out that Picasa does not completely remove all GPS related data, however, the actual location coordinate information is removed.


© 2012 Ludwig Keck

About Ludwig

Lending a helping hand where I can. . . My motto: If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
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