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How Photo Metadata Changes in Whatsapp (Tested Results)

We tested and showed that Whatsapp removed all photo’s EXIF metadata.

Ever wondered what happens to our photos when we sent them over to our friends via Whatsapp?

Do the photos that we take reveal anything about us? If so, what kind of metadata details are there?

Does Whatsapp retain or remove these metadata?

We did several testing on other popular instant messaging apps as well.




The common scenario is, whenever we take photos using our mobile devices, EXIF metadata can be embedded within our photos without our knowledge.

EXIF data can contain text fields like;

Make & Model of the device used
Camera’s exposure settings
Date & Time the photo was taken
Any software modifications/enhancements done to the photo
GPS location information of the place where the photo was taken
many other fields, etc

EXIF data are generated automatically, behind the scenes, without the user’s action when taking photos using our digital cameras or mobile devices. These data are text inputs embedded inside that image.

There are occasions where we do not want our photo metadata to be visible to others over Whatsapp.

We may not want others to know our exact location back then or if we ever did any software enhancements and modifications to the photo.

In this article, real-life testing was performed and analysed to determine if Whatsapp actually retains or removed our original photo metadata.


Setting Up the Test Environment

Preparing Two Mobile Phones

Two (2) Android mobile phones were used in this experiment, each having its own unique Whatsapp account.

Phone A will be the sender of the photo

Phone B will be the recipient of the photo

Taking A Photo containing EXIF Data

Phone A took a photo with the following system settings;

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

Phone A sends the photo to Phone B via Whatsapp.

The Difference in Whatsapp Photo Metadata

EXIF Data on PhotoBefore Sending (in Phone A)After Sending (in Phone B)
FilenameIMG_20210513_154329.jpgIMG-20210513-WA0000.jpg
File Size5143531 bytes (5.14 MB)239423 bytes (2.39 MB)
GPS Information
(Location, Timestamp)
YesRemoved
Make & Model of Mobile Device UsedYesRemoved
Image Height & Width3456 x 46081599 x 1200
EXIF Details
(Aperture, Brightness, Exposure Mode, ISO, Flash, etc.)
YesRemoved
Photo Creation TimestampNamed as “Creation Date”Named as “File Access Date”

Test Conclusion

Based on the testing, the Whatsapp recipient will observe the following;

  • File Name is changed. Whatsapp retained the front portion of the date format but renamed the last portion of the sequence number to WAxxxxx.jpg.
  • File Size is significantly smaller. Whatsapp shrink the photo by approximately 73% difference
  • GPS coordinates are removed. There is no way to tell the location of the photo on the recipient’s end.
  • Image dimensions are reduced from 3456 x 4608 to a smaller 1599 x 1200
  • EXIF details are removed and camera settings values such as Aperture settings, Brightness settings are stripped off.
  • Creation Date is the metadata value for the original photo taken by Sender. The recipient does not see this value.
  • File Access Date is the metadata value that the recipient sees. This date & time is always later than that of the Creation Date.

FAQ

Does Whatsapp remove photo EXIF metadata?

Yes, it does.

Based on our testing in this article, Whatsapp removed the GPS location information such as the latitude and longitude coordinates, the make & model of the device used and the EXIF details such as the camera aperture settings, ISO settings, if the user enabled Flash, etc.

Whatsapp also reduced the image file size and reduced the image dimensions.

Can you send a photo with location information using Whatsapp?

No, you cannot. Whatsapp will strip off all EXIF data in your photos when you send them over their network.

This is likely a move for achieving both privacy and resource efficiency.

Does iPhone or Android users encounter any difference in retaining Whatsapp photo metadata?

No. The experiment in this article was tested using 2 different Android mobile devices.

The results are the same when using Apple iPhones. It is not the mobile device nor operating system that matters. It is in Whatsapp’s policy to strip off metadata from images.


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