The New Flickr ~ Stripping Your Photo’s Contact Information

Posted May. 20th, 2013 by Daniel J. Cox

Yesterday Yahoo announced they were improving their photo sharing site Flickr, giving every Flickr user one Terabyte of free cloud storage for photographs. “Wow” I thought. “What a deal”. I’ve had a Flickr account for a least a couple of years but I’ve never used it. So off I went to figure out how to get reengaged with Flickr.

The information at the bottom of this photo is what is known as Metadata or what I refer to as Contact Information. This is embedded in each image when I put this through my digital photography software, Apple's Aperture. This information is hidden and is only viewable if you have a program like Apple's Preview which is what I used to open this information.

The information above this caption and below this image is what is known as Metadata or what I refer to as Contact Information. This is embedded in each image when I put this through my digital photography software, Apple’s Aperture. This information is hidden and is only viewable if you have a program like Apple’s Preview which is what I used to open this information.

To start off I uploaded about a dozen images I shot of my sister teaching an art workshop while I was home in Duluth this past week. When I uploaded these images to my computer, from my camera’s SD card, my photo program Aperture automatically embeds all my Metadata/Contact Information into each image.  That info includes my copyright info, physical address, email, web address, phone number, year the image was first published and all the other items commonly added on Import into Aperture. Some programs show all Contact Information, however, Apple’s Preview shows just the basics which are visible above. The photo above was an image I exported from Aperture onto my desktop

Here is the same image after I drug the photo to my desktop from my Flickr page. Notice all Metadata/Contact Info has been removed compared to the one above.

Here is the same image after I drug the photo to my desktop from my Flickr page. Notice all Metadata/Contact Info has been removed compared to the one above. If you review the first image above, look for the tab that says IPTC. That is where Contact Information resides and it’s gone form this photo.

and then opened in Preview. The image below is the same image after it was uploaded to Flickr. I then drug this image from the Flickr website to my desktop, opened it in Preview and found all Metadata/Contact Information had been removed. What’s even more unsettling is Flickr is allowing the highest quality files to be uploaded. You can actually upload a full resolution image to Flickr now. This will give people the ability to pull these images down and use them in magazines, posters, web pages, books, calendars, ANYTHING they want. And nobody will have any idea who owns YOUR image. Flickr does have some options for restricting downloads but even their FAQ warns against posting any photos you don’t want to lose control over. Here is the info from their FAQ:

“We’ve made changes to the page to discourage casual downloading and make people more aware of image ownership …. by ‘discourage’ we do mean simply ‘discourage’. Please understand that if a photo can be viewed in a web browser, it can be downloaded by people who actively disregard our roadblocks.”

As beautiful as the new Flickr is, I’ll be sticking with my PhotoShelter account for all my photos other than the people pictures I shoot of our guests in the field. If you do plan to upload images to Flickr I would certainly not upload any image larger than 600 pixels on the long side, I would also make certain it had a watermark on the image itself and I would register all images with the U.S. Copyright Office. You can find out about adding watermarks and registering your photos by following this link, How to Protect Your Photo Rights.

Add Your Voice!
There are 18 comments on this post…
  1. Mark StadsklevOn Jun. 5th, 2013

    One very important thing to note about the US copyright office is that you want to be sure and register your images BEFORE you publish them anywhere, and that includes posting on the web.
    The reason is that you can register thousands of images at a time for only $35 if they are unpublished. IF they are published you have a long difficult process of individually dating etc each published image.
    ASMP has a free tutorial and I did my submissions by annual quarters just to make it easy to keep track.
    Having registered them a lawyer will now take the case whereas without that US registration it’s very unlikely to go to court with any success.

  2. Dennis LienOn May. 31st, 2013

    Thank you all for this information, very helpful as I was just about to upload my first images to Flicker.I guess now I have some more work to do to protect my images.

  3. garyOn May. 31st, 2013

    If i find anyone tampering with my photographs, They will know about it. and will not be living a happy life, Its bad enough having digital and the world flooded with cameras and so called photographers, Any one using my work with out reward to me in Cash. Will land up in court. If it be adjustment, use of any kins, with out permission. or taking info from the uploaded or original file, it will be dealt with.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 31st, 2013

      Good for you Gary! Do you Register your photos with the US Copyright Office? If not you should think about doing so since it give you much more leverage against the misuse of your images.

  4. NoelOn May. 30th, 2013

    Thanks for the useful feedback, Daniel what would you regard as small?

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 30th, 2013

      Noel, in this situation I’m referring to anything smaller than the Full Hi Resolution image that goes up for the Pro account.

  5. Russ BishopOn May. 29th, 2013

    You’re right Daniel – this is very disturbing. But we have to keep in mind that Flickr is really designed for the masses, most of whom don’t even know what metadata is or how to use it.

    For those of us who make a living with our images, services like Photoshelter are the only way to manage and distribute your work to clients. For everyone else I’ll use the social sites, but always have a watermark and keep file sizes small.

  6. SergeOn May. 26th, 2013

    For starters, I am not a fan of yahoo. I have been using flickr for a long time, since before Yahoo bought them.

    So, today I uploaded a photo to test the stripping of Exif data – and it did not. I am not sure why the author lost his data – could be the “new” flickr has a different uploader. I have had a Pro account for years and use the default uploader (which has been updated).

    Could it be that when he uploaded he chose Creative Commons upload option (not all rights reserved) which would make sense to strip the info?

    Also, if you are to click on “all rights reserved” link that comes up when you right click on the photo you get this helpful info: http://www.flickr.com/help/general/#147

    I am also not sure what the author meant when he just dragged the image from browser (did not work on my PC, could be a mac thing).

    If someone wants to try, my image that I tested is here: it has been uploaded with owner and copyright info (no address) – http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcserge/8848211936/

    Additional information is appreciated. Will still keep checking.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 27th, 2013

      Serge, No I did not choose the Creative Commons upload option. I just drug another one of the images to my desktop that I loaded several days ago and this new copy is still void of ALL Metadata/Contact Information. There was a comment by Andy Hutchinson earlier in this thread that highlights the issue. Andy writes, “Out of interest I downloaded the fullsize original of one of my uploads from Flickr and all the EXIF data has been fully retained in that image. I then checked the smaller sizes that Flickr produce and sure enough, no-EXIF. Therefore it seems to me like the removal of the EXIF data is a by-product of the server-side resizing tool Flickr are using.” Andy’s conclusion, “Therefore it seems to me like the removal of the EXIF data is a by-product of the server-side resizing tool Flickr are using” seems to be exactly the issue across the internet. There is some sort of technology that seems to be pervasive across the web, that does virtuality the same thing to all images, that is, Strip all EXIF and Metadata/Contact Information on upload or processing the image for viewing. I’m investigating this with my ISP and will be sharing the info we come up with when we have more information. Thanks for your input and help with figuring this all out. The more people know the better decisions we can make regarding the sharing of our photographs across the internet.

  7. Patrick DownsOn May. 25th, 2013

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ve re-posted links to it to: https://www.facebook.com/groups/PhotojournalistsCooperative/

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 27th, 2013

      Thank you Patrick. Spreading the word is the only way we’ll eventually solve the problem.

  8. Neil KovenOn May. 24th, 2013

    This is why I watermark every picture I put on the net. I have seen clients use pictures they have not paid for, and one even put her family picture that I took on her FB page…complete with my © watermark.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 24th, 2013

      Neil, I watermark everything that goes to the web as well. The downside is that watermarks can be cropped off but at least it shows you’re working to keep track of your photos. For those interested you can download our Free PDF’s by following this link, How To Protect Your Photo Rights, highlighting how to watermark with Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Pixelmator and Apple’s Aperture. These PDF’s also contain information on the process of Registering your copyright with the US Copyright Office. I register every image I shoot. Thanks for adding your voice.

  9. Harald WalkerOn May. 22nd, 2013

    Showing EXIF data on Flickr is a privacy setting but even when enabled the resized images don’t include it. The settings are only for the individual photo page.

    Not everyone wants EXIF data to be public, esp. with your real name and contact information. So mainly I think Flickr doesn’t include it for privacy reasons or it is simply a technical issue of the resizing and wasn’t a feature requested. Best solution would be indeed to have it optional.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 22nd, 2013

      Good information Harald. I would be happy with an option for keeping all Metadata/Contact Information. However, I don’t recommend anybody put their images out there without information within the Metadata/Contact Information telling who owns that image. Hiding your head in the sand or on the internet just encourages the theft and illegal use of photography. I can promise you that anybody wanting to get paid for one of their photos would be happy to be able to be properly contacted.

  10. Andy HutchinsonOn May. 21st, 2013

    Thanks for this Dan – I did some investigating myself. Firstly, you’ve always been able to upload fullsize images to Flickr with a Pro account. I use the service and those fullsize images were only viewable by me – I only made 1000px/72dpi version available for viewing.

    Out of interest I downloaded the fullsize original of one of my uploads from Flickr and all the EXIF data has been fully retained in that image. I then checked the smaller sizes that Flickr produce and sure enough, no-EXIF. Therefore it seems to me like the removal of the EXIF data is a by-product of the server-side resizing tool Flickr are using.

    Having the EXIF removed from the low resolution versions of my photos is a pain, but it’s not a deal-breaker for me. The EXIF’s still in the fullsize version which I on-sell through Getty so any commercial use of the print-ready image is covered. I’m not a professional photographer so for me it’s about getting my image out there as much as possible. As you know there’s no way of stopping image theft completely but tools such as Google’s image search make finding those thefts that bit easier.

    It is an interesting subject though and I think I’ll do a post on my blog about which services strip the EXIF and which don’t.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 21st, 2013

      Thanks Andy for checking the Pro Account option. That’s good to know. I’m guessing Flickr doesn’t’ even know their stripping from the smaller sizes. That’s the frustration with all of this. I honestly think that most situations where Metadata/Contact Information is removed is not intentional. I’ve been talking with my ISP/Web Designer and we’re finding even WordPress removes metadata/contact Information. He and I are going to be doing some investigating. I love the idea of you helping with finding others that are stripping as well. This is a daunting task but I’m not giving up making people aware. I do appreciate any help you folks out there want to offer. Thanks a million.

  11. Rene LauerOn May. 21st, 2013

    I knew there was a catch. Thanks for testing it out. I can’t believe no one has a problem with stealing images. How is it different than any other theft?

Add your voice to this conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In an effort to combat spam, your comment may be held for a brief moderation period.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.