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Browser fingerprinting is well-known: since a client gives many HTTP attributes/Javascript attributes during a website visit, the probability that two users have the same exact values for all this parameters is very low, and a user can sometimes be easily identified as unique (example: amiunique.org).

In a same fashion, is there a risk (for one's privacy) that if someone shares a single photo somewhere on the web, then we can find all photos shared by the same person on internet?

Indeed, photos metadata (EXIF) are sometimes present on photos that people upload to their website (people sometimes don't remove them), containing:

  • name of the device (ok, many people in the world have the same device)
  • maybe firmware version (then the number of people having the exact same version is lower) or OS version?
  • sometimes geolocation
  • other unique IDs?

Then won't using a service like images.google.com (or a similar tool which offer metadata advanced search) allow anyone to find all photos uploaded by the same user?

More precisely: given a set of metadata coming from a photo, can people easily search all photos on internet made by the same device (thus creating a privacy risk)? Or do major image search engines prevent this to happen (by rejecting metadata search)?


Example for a photo:

---- File ----
FileName                        : ...
Directory                       : ...
FileSize                        : ...
FileModifyDate                  : ...
FilePermissions                 : ...
FileType                        : JPEG
MIMEType                        : image/jpeg
ExifByteOrder                   : Little-endian (Intel, II)
ImageWidth                      : ...
ImageHeight                     : ...
EncodingProcess                 : Baseline DCT, Huffman coding
BitsPerSample                   : 8
ColorComponents                 : 3
YCbCrSubSampling                : YCbCr4:2:0 (2 2)
---- EXIF ----
ImageWidth                      : ...
ImageHeight                     : ...
Make                            : ...
Model                           : ...
Orientation                     : Rotate 180
XResolution                     : 72
YResolution                     : 72
ResolutionUnit                  : inches
Software                        : Ai0j1i567fs
ModifyDate                      : ...
YCbCrPositioning                : Centered
ExposureTime                    : ...
FNumber                         : ...
ExposureProgram                 : Program AE
ISO                             : ...
ExifVersion                     : 0220
DateTimeOriginal                : ...
CreateDate                      : ...
ComponentsConfiguration         : Y, Cb, Cr, -
ShutterSpeedValue               : 1/132
ApertureValue                   : ...
BrightnessValue                 : ...
ExposureCompensation            : 0
MaxApertureValue                : ...
MeteringMode                    : Center-weighted average
LightSource                     : Unknown
Flash                           : Fired
FocalLength                     : ...
UserComment                     : ...
FlashpixVersion                 : 0100
ColorSpace                      : sRGB
ExifImageWidth                  : ...
ExifImageHeight                 : ...
InteropIndex                    : R98 - DCF basic file (sRGB)
InteropVersion                  : 0100
SensingMethod                   : One-chip color area
SceneType                       : Directly photographed
ExposureMode                    : Auto
WhiteBalance                    : Auto
FocalLengthIn35mmFormat         : 31 mm
SceneCaptureType                : Standard
ImageUniqueID                   : H07RA02XP
GPSVersionID                    : 2.2.0.0
ImageWidth                      : 512
ImageHeight                     : 288
Compression                     : JPEG (old-style)
Orientation                     : Rotate 180
XResolution                     : 72
YResolution                     : 72
ResolutionUnit                  : inches
ThumbnailOffset                 : ...
ThumbnailLength                 : ...
---- MakerNotes ----
MakerNoteVersion                : 0100
  • I googled "fingerprinting camera from metadata" and got quite a number of high quality hits – schroeder Nov 3 '19 at 8:55
  • one of which is: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/16777/… – schroeder Nov 3 '19 at 8:56
  • @schroeder So did I, I found articles like schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/04/digital_cameras.html, but the ones I found mostly did not cover the risk of search the whole web for all photos made by a single user. I will update the title accordingly, thank you for your comment. – Basj Nov 3 '19 at 8:57
  • "search" is a completely different issue from fingerprinting. How are you relating them? – schroeder Nov 3 '19 at 8:59
  • @schroeder "Search" is not an issue. The issue is the lack of privacy, and the mix of fingerprinting + search creates this issue. – Basj Nov 3 '19 at 9:00

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