Your Files Reveal Your Personal Details. Want to Learn How to Stop Them?
Though, there are tons of articles on the internet about the ways how to protect your personal data and secure your online anonymity, the question about managing your metadata isn’t covered enough. However, it is a very important piece of information that will help you to be more prudent online by means of removing metadata that can conceal your identity.
A couple of reasonable questions arise: “What is metadata?” and “Why should I remove it?” Today, we will let you know the answers. Let’s start with the beginning.
Metadata: a blessing or a curse?
When we talk about a ‘file’ it can be a text document, image, video, piece of audio, software, etc. Every time you create, download or edit a file, it makes records of the important information that is called metadata. Sometimes it’s useful: it stores the information of what was happening with the file, when it was created, which program created it. Some images may even store the GPS information so you can easily see where the images were taken.
For that same reason, it can also be potentially risky. Your confidential information can be revealed to other parties, and your online privacy can be compromised without you even being aware of it. Try it yourself. There is a number of online services where you can upload an image, and see what they will tell you.
How does metadata work?
In recent years, there were several high-profile incidents, where sensitive data leaked through the hidden data stored within files that were sent by email or were posted on the web. For instance the incident of the arrest of John McAfee, the founder of the antivirus company named after him.
Back in 2012, McAfee was living in Belize when his neighbor was found murdered. He was never declared a suspect in this case, but he decided to flee anyway, fearing that he would be arrested. Still, he continued to keep in touch with a few journalists from Wired and Vice, who posted pictures with him on their website.
In fact, they posted more that just pictures. Using the metadata viewing software, the authorities were able to trace the movement of McAfee and his friends by entering the coordinates of each photo into Google Maps. Finally, they were led straight to McAfee.
To rely on or not?
Removing the metadata can help you to protect your online identity in some way. There are many programs that will check, edit or limit information stored within a file’s metadata for you. But there is a downside of such programs. The process of managing the metadata can limit your options. You can be limited in a comfort using of your computer terminal, where you can type raw commands to run tasks.
Another point is that such services can remove the metadata from your files automatically when you upload them. However, it is hard to predict what exactly metadata they will remove. The case with McAfee is a real-life example that shows you’d better not rely on software to do this automatically.
Hide your online activities with one click
Fortunately, there is an additional layer of security for your online identity. Hide your real IP address and mask your actual location while surfing the web, and this will make it impossible for anyone to track your online activities. For this, use a virtual private network service, like VPN Unlimited. This software will direct all your online actions through a secure tunnel, encrypting your shared data.
With VPN Unlimited, you can send emails, communicate in social networks, and post your pictures anonymously. Now, third parties will never be able to link your browser footprints on websites you visit. Thus, there is no any possibility that they will disclose your real location, or any other of your personal data.
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