What Lies Beneath

As you may be aware, I’m not very happy with the current version of Windows Live Photo Gallery at the moment. I believe strongly that it has problems that desperately need to be fixed.

There are other, less pressing, issues with WLPG 2011 as well. These include the fact that slideshow quality is degraded in comparison to earlier versions. Another is the fact that people are finding that their workflow performance has taken a nose-dive since upgrading to WLPG 2011.

However, apart from all that, there are other things that niggle. These days most people are unaware of how much of their identity is available online. That almost certainly includes me, even though I think I’m being careful. Thus, here’s another example from WLPG 2011. It has automatic face recognition in it. People are probably happily tagging (identifying) their friends in photos using WLPG 2011, which in turn is squirreling away metadata containing this information into the photos. If these photos are subsequently uploaded to online sites where they can be viewed by anyone, then this metadata is often equally available to all.

And what is this metadata? Well, it is at minimum, the names of the people in the photos. But if those people are also known to you as email contacts, or have a Windows Live identity, then this information is also included as metadata in the uploaded photos. True, the metadata will not spell out their email addresses for all to see – they are at least encrypted. However, after reading this comment, (from a Microsoft employee) I do wonder about the Windows Live ID:

PersonLiveCID is the unique ID generated for everyone with a Windows Live ID, it might be possible to use this and I’ll be playing with some of the Azure Services sometime to see if you can resolve this to a contact. That could create some very interesting possibilities.

That would be “interesting” in the Chinese sense, I think.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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10 Responses to What Lies Beneath

  1. technogran1 says:

    A very interesting post Geoff. However, how does the ‘ordinary user’ access all of this ‘meta data’ that you are so concerned about which is available via a photo? I have certainly not seen it myself. And how does Picasa compare in this included meta data? Does it warrant the same caution? I will obviously give feeback to the Photo Gallery team about all of this as it concerns me as well seeing as I am a big user.

  2. Geoff Coupe says:

    Hi TG – I’ve just finished writing a reply to your similar question over at your blog :-) See: http://technograns.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/windows-live-essentials-2011-live-photo-gallery/

    If you want to see what metadata is included in any of your photos, then you can use utilities such as ExifToolGUI (http://u88.n24.queensu.ca/exiftool/forum/index.php/board,7.0.html) or Geosetter (http://www.geosetter.de/en/). Geosetter is really good, and free, although donations are welcome.

    • technogran1 says:

      So in other words you have to use an external program or another program to see all of this meta data that you are so concerned about. Most users (me included) would not know anything about this, nor be interested in obtaining it either. I am far more concerned Geoff with sites such as Facebook and what they do to my credentials such as sharing all of my info (including that of my friends) with third party applications etc.

      • Geoff Coupe says:

        TG, you say it yourself: “I am far more concerned with sites such as Facebook and what they do to my credentials such as sharing all of my info (including that of my friends) with third party applications etc.” Your info includes the metadata in your photos…

      • JL says:

        It’s not actually rocket science. “Metadata” that seems such a big mysterious word, I suppose, can be read by Picasa, XnView and even Windows Explorer with little to no effort, just to mention a few.

  3. technogran1 says:

    Which sort of explains why I don’t put my photos on Facebook!

  4. technogran1 says:

    Yes Geoff but flickr doesn’t employ outside applications that it shares any of my details with does it? And Facebook doesn’t use flickr.

    • JL says:

      TechnoGran #1, this is the Internet. The whole darn thing is the Internet. You can’t isolate yourself and the info you put out here into a little box and then close your eyes.

      • JL says:

        P.S. It works like this: any data embedded in your photos, regardless of where you upload your photos to, is in your photos. If I was interested, all I’d have to do is download your photos to my computer and all your metadata is mine to see. Your GPS, your names, your addresses, whatever’s in there. Your photos, anyone’s photos.

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