Once again we are confronted with the realities of living in the digital world and how we are incrementally losing our privacy one device at a time.


Therefore it is appropriate to illustrate this point with a picture of an electronic warfare aircraft practicing touch-and-go landings on Whidbey Island, Washington.

There is nothing special about this photo, other than the fact that it contains embedded digital information that can be passed along much in the same way that your computer can add the identification information about your audio player device to identification information about your computer to be burned into the audio file that is being created on your CD burner. In fact, many e-mail programs insert special identification elements known as GUIDs (Globally Unique IDentifiers) into your e-mail messages and its graphic and audio content. Ditto for these identifiers being added to your documents, spreadsheets and other computer-generated files.

Information and identifiers which may allow law enforcement to identify the perpetrators of a crime, your employers to identify the source of leaks and the rest of the universe to track your digital footprint as you traipse around the globe.

These data items are referred to as "METADATA"  which is defined as "data about data." To learn how to remove metadata from your documents, consult your word processing, spreadsheet or graphics program help file.

For those who are curious about what this particular photo says, here is a display of a portion of the publicly accessible knowledge that is embedded in the file.

Filename : SRL_0291.JPG
                JFIF_APP1 : Exif
Main Information
                     Make : NIKON CORPORATION
                    Model : NIKON D200
              Orientation : left-hand side
              XResolution : 300/1
              YResolution : 300/1
           ResolutionUnit : Inch
                 Software : Ver.1.00
                 DateTime : 2006:06:30 14:24:06
         YCbCrPositioning : co-sited
           ExifInfoOffset : 228
            GPSInfoOffset : 30056
Sub Information
             ExposureTime : 1/180Sec
                  FNumber : F6.3
          ExposureProgram : Program Normal
          ISOSpeedRatings : 100
              ExifVersion : 0221
         DateTimeOriginal : 2006:06:30 14:24:06
        DateTimeDigitized : 2006:06:30 14:24:06
   ComponentConfiguration : YCbCr
   CompressedBitsPerPixel : 4/1 (bit/pixel)
        ExposureBiasValue : EV1.0
         MaxApertureValue : F5.7
             MeteringMode : Division
              LightSource : Unidentified
                    Flash : Not fired
              FocalLength : 210.00(mm)
                MakerNote : Nikon COOLPIX Format : 29162Bytes (Offset:872)
              UserComment : (C)2006 Stephen Richard Levine      
               SubSecTime : 44
       SubSecTimeOriginal : 44
      SubSecTimeDigitized : 44
          FlashPixVersion : 0100
               ColorSpace : sRGB
           ExifImageWidth : 3872
          ExifImageHeight : 2592
ExifInteroperabilityOffset : 30026
            SensingMethod : OneChipColorArea sensor
               FileSource : DSC
                SceneType : A directly photographed image
               CFAPattern : 8 Bytes
           CustomRendered : Normal process
             ExposureMode : Auto
             WhiteBalance : Auto
         DigitalZoomRatio : 1/1
        FocalLength(35mm) : 315(mm)
         SceneCaptureType : Standard
              GainControl : None
                 Contrast : Hard
               Saturation : High
                Sharpness : Hard
     SubjectDistanceRange : Unknown
GPS Informtion
             GPSVersionID : 2,2,0,0
                    ExifR : R98
                  Version : 0100
Thumbnail Information
              Compression : OLDJPEG
              XResolution : 300/1
              YResolution : 300/1
           ResolutionUnit : Inch
    JPEGInterchangeFormat : 30184
JPEGInterchangeFormatLength : 11313
         YCbCrPositioning : co-sited

Had the GPS feature been enabled, the exact location of the photographer at the time the photo was taken  would also have been inserted into the file. Combine this file with the Nikon authentication software and we can determine if this is the original picture taken by the camera as opposed to a "Photoshopped" image.

While this information can serve as a learning aid to help us take better pictures and the GPS information can help us to catalog our ever-growing photo collection, there are security and privacy tradeoffs which must be considered.

And these security and safety issues go far beyond  Hollywood inserting digital watermarks and file identification markers to control the illegal use of copyright material.

What can YOU do?

Be aware that you may be leaving digital footprints whenever you use a modern digital device. Information which can be decrypted from files in transit by any of the communications carriers who have been legislatively mandated to provide this access capability under CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) to anyone with a lawful order.

Which is why we, as a people, should take the subject of warrantless searches and the unmonitored inspection of communications traffic (deep packet mining) with the utmost seriousness lest your Constitutional rights against self-incrimination and unlawful search and seizure be compromised.

I strongly suggest that you visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation's site at if you are interested in the subject of maintaining your personal freedoms in this technological age.

For those who want to extract the digital information from your photos without the use of a high-end photo manipulation program, simply Google "free EXIF readers" and download any one of a number of good programs.

It is not necessary to sacrifice your personal freedom or liberty to achieve safety and security... especially in today's chaotic political environment where almost every politician is jockeying for power, prestige and profits.

-- steve

Quote of the day: Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither - Benjamin Franklin.

A reminder from a large improvement can result from a small change…

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane. -- Marcus Aurelius

“Nullius in verba”-- take nobody's word for it!
"Acta non verba" -- actions not words

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell

“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar

“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS