featured-image-Photo-Metadata-in-Telegram

How Photo Metadata Changes in Telegram (Tested Results)

We tested and showed that Telegram stripped off all photos’ EXIF metadata when sending over their network.

Telegram is, by far, one of the most popular instant messaging apps on mobile devices.

Thanks to its unique ability to cater to up to 200,00 users in a single Telegram Group and an unlimited number of subscribers for its Telegram Channel, the app had exceeded 500 million users worldwide in the year 2021.

Multimedia content like photos and videos are frequently shared among its users.

When we take pictures using our mobile devices, sensitive data (EXIF metadata) are created without our knowledge.

Examples of such are our exact location in terms of GPS coordinates at that time of photo capture, our make & model of the device used, if we ever made alterations or edits to that image, and many more.

There are times where we do not want others to know our photo metadata when we send it over Telegram.

Besides Telegram, many other popular mobile messaging apps enable sending and receiving photos. Some of which had been tested by us regarding how they handle our photo metadata over their network.




This article will dive into the testing of how Telegram handles our photo metadata when we send it over their network.


Setting up the Test Environment

Preparing two (2) mobile phones

We had set up two (2) different mobile phones, each having its unique Telegram accounts.

Phone A will take a photo containing EXIF data and be the sender.

Phone B will be the receiver of that photo.

Phone A took a photo with the following system settings;

GPS Location ON via system settings
Grant permission for the Camera app to use the phone’s location
Allow the location to be saved via Camera app settings


Phone A then sends that photo to Phone B.


The difference in Telegram Photo Metadata

EXIF Data on PhotoBefore Sending (in Phone A)After Sending (in Phone B)
FilenameIMG_20210526_193250.jpgChanged
(IMG_20210526_194450_838.jpg)
File Size4054282 bytes (4.05 MB)Reduced
127216 bytes (0.12 MB)
GPS Location
(Coordinates, Timestamp)
YesRemoved
Make & Model of Device UsedYesRemoved
Image Height & Width3456 x 4608Reduced
(1280 x 960)
EXIF Details
(Aperture, Brightness, Exposure, Mode, ISO, Flash, etc.)
YesRemoved
Photo Creation TimestampYes, named as “Creation Date”No, it only has “File Access Date


Test Conclusion

Based on the testing experiment above, we can conclude that the Telegram recipient of the photo will observe the following changes;

  • File Name is changed at the tail-end based on the current device photo’s running number while retaining the front portion that contains the YYYYMMDD format.
  • File Size is reduced at 97% in this test, from 4.05 MB to 0.12 MB
  • GPS coordinates are removed and no longer available to the recipient/s.
  • Image dimensions are reduced from 3456 x 4608 to a smaller 1280 x 960.
  • EXIF details are removed. These details usually contain camera settings such as ISO settings, use of Flash, aperture settings etc.,
  • Creation Date is only available to the device that took the original photo. This means only the Sender can see this value. This value is the exact date & time at which the photo is taken. However, when sending over to Telegram, the recipient/s will not see this.
  • File Access Date is only available to the Telegram recipient/s. As they do not have information to the original “Creation Date”, this value is often later than Creation Date, and it captures the date & time when the photo was sent to the recipient.


Q & A

Does Telegram retain or strip off photo EXIF metadata?

Yes, based on our experiment in this article, Telegram stripped off all image EXIF metadata such as GPS coordinates, GPS timestamp, the actual creation date of the photo, the make & model of the device used and all other camera settings details such as aperture settings, ISO settings and others.

In addition, Telegram also reduced the image file size and image dimensions in the process of sending over to the recipient.

Is it possible to send a photo containing EXIF data via Telegram?

This is impossible as Telegram automatically strips off all image EXIF data when sending it over to their network servers. Again, this is likely the privacy and operating efficiency consideration aspect.

Does it matter if the mobile phone is iOS or Android?

It does not matter what type of mobile is used. The decision to strip off image metadata is on the part of Telegram.


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