EXIF Data vs. Your Anonymity

EXIF Data showing location information.

In the listing of illicit drugs via Darknet markets such as The Majestic Garden, Valhalla, and Alphabay, many dealers are unknowingly disclosing their location data. Metadata can be embedded into EXIF files: JPG, RAW, TIF and WAV. EXIF stands for Exchangeable Image File and is standard for almost all camera manufacturers.

The metadata in EXIF files can include date and time information, camera settings, descriptions as well as copyright information. With the advent of new devices and cameras, most images captured now hold location information as well.

Based on the findings of two Harvard Researchers, they were able to indicate through plotted locations — discovered through posted photographs — that most of the darknet markets are based in North America and Europe. One of the researchers, Michael Rose discovered that much of the information came from widely-used darknet markets and often times the location-releasing EXIF metadata was not stripped.

Ultimately, these discoveries show that one should not believe that all Darknet sites remove your location data from uploaded files, and how everyone should be vigilant when it comes to any Tor based activity. While Tor is a great service to assist, the use of Tor alone is not enough to experience true anonymity — one must still do their due diligence.

Tome Verbic