The Importance of Meta Data in Digital Images

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The Importance of Meta Data in Digital Images

In today’s modern world, when someone is suspected of a crime, the first places law enforcement professionals will often check for information are be the suspect’s computer, web browsing history, and mobile phone. It is to the advantage of private investigation agencies such as Prudential Associates that people rely so heavily on technology now. These devices can provide much more than just the obvious information. One often overlooked type of extremely valuable data lies within the Meta data attached to digital images.

What is Meta Data?

Meta data, in regards to pictures, refers to information about the images. The data will describe many different characteristics of the photo, and can include the size, the quality, as well as when, where, and with what device the photo was taken. The Meta data attached to a digital photo provides a detailed history and description of the photo, and will often describe when it was published and if it has been modified.

Why is Meta Data in Digital Images Important to Private Investigations?

Social networking sites often make it very easy to find someone. People will provide status updates about their daily activities, post photographs of their locations, and check-in at specific events and businesses. There might even be chat logs in which the person says where he or she will be.

However, if an individual is aware or even suspicious that they are being investigated, they will likely be much more careful when posting. Thanks to Meta data attached to photographs, even people who do not wish to be found can sometimes be located.

How the Process Works 

With new smart phones, tablets, and mini tablets being released and purchased at very fast rates, nearly everyone has a mobile device with an Internet connection. Even people who know that they are under investigation often cannot resist the urge to post something to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or numerous other social networking websites. What they do not realize is that photographs uploaded from these devices may provide the clues investigators need to document their whereabouts.

When a photograph is uploaded from a mobile device, unless the user has modified the location settings, GPS data will be included within the Meta data for that picture. This data can be accessed through Windows using the EXIF Viewer, or on a Mac using the File Viewer application. The software will display GPS data that details when and where the photo was taken using latitude, longitude, and even altitude measurements. These numbers can be plugged into Google Maps to pinpoint where the individual was when he or she uploaded the photograph.

Why This Information is Important

Meta data attached to photographs can be an extremely crucial element within a difficult investigation. Of course, this information can help law enforcement locate a suspect who has gone into hiding, but it can also play other important roles. The GPS data attached to a photograph may be used to either corroborate or discredit an individual’s alibi. For example, if a cheating spouse claimed to be at work on a given day, the location and timestamp attached to a photograph may be used by a private investigator to prove otherwise.

Hiring a Private Investigation Team to Perform Digital Forensics

Many people may already be aware that Meta data in digital images contains this type of information, but they might not be aware of just how valuable these resources can be in the hands of a highly-trained digital forensics investigator. While it may be tempting to try to collect and utilize this information on your own, it is always best to enlist the help of an experienced investigator who will know how to build a strong case.