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I was sent a .jpeg photo by gmail. It looks like it is pasted into the mail, but it also shows up as an attached file on the mail preview. Opening the mail however, the photo is in-line with the text.

I pressed on the photo and downloaded it, and then used exiftool (the Windows executable) to read the metadata. There was a bunch of metadata, like the date I myself downloaded the file, and also another date, Profile Date Time. If I have understood correctly, the profile date time is when the ICC profile is created, which is either when the photo was first taken, or after it has been transferred in some way (to put it as vaguely as I understand it). I know that the profile date time is very likely too recent to be the actual time the photo was taken, so I guess this implies the photo has gone through some kind of transfer, thus necessitating a new ICC profile. This is corroborated by the fact that the profile CMM type and primary profile where both marked as Apple Computer Inc., and I doubt they took the photo with a computer.

Among all this data, there was no data tag marked something like Date Photo Was Taken (not sure what the name would be).

So, I am left with the question; why did the date disappear? Perhaps the photographer sent the photo to the sender via a social media app like Messenger, and this then stripped the date from the metadata? Perhaps gmail strips the date from the metadata?

My question is this: what are the possibilities behind the disappearance of the date in the metadata?

As a side question, could I get the date if the photographer sent the photo from their original photographing phone's gallery to me via gmail?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: How to detect if a photo's metadata has been changed? Hint: you can't \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Sep 14, 2023 at 9:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelC I figured, but luckily that is probably not relevant to my case, since I doubt neither the photographer or sender are capable of such (or even know that it is possible). More likely, the photographer has sent the photos to the sender via something that stripped parts of the metadata. If it stripped parts of it due to privacy protection, then I can look for whether other, private pieces of the metadata are missing or not. If they are not missing, then that means the date was singled-out and removed, which is suspicious. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 14, 2023 at 10:21

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Gmail doesn't strip data from files (just sent myself a photo from my phone, and all the Exif is there, including GPS data).

The "Share" function on smartphones may remove metadata for privacy reasons, before passing it to whatever app is used for sharing.

There are ways to circumvent this, for instance, by sending your photos as files.

Good image browsers can show you all available image metadata in the image (if there is any left...).

Regarding your comment, editing/replacing the data is as easy as removing it, and would be a lot less noticeable.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "Share -> Gmail" on my Android doesn't strip that metadata, but that's not to say everyone's will behave the same \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris H
    Sep 14, 2023 at 15:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Neither on mine. But Share > Signal rips off everything. \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Sep 14, 2023 at 16:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, it's not the process of sharing but the app you share it through, and signal is tight on privacy. WhatsApp also strips at least some metadata, but I think it also re-compresses the file (can't test now, so I could be thinking of a different app) \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris H
    Sep 14, 2023 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... yes WhatsApp resizes (seemingly to maximum 1600×1200) and throws away all the metadata. Judging by the file size it also compresses to lower quality, this was also visible even in a photo from my phone camera, which is pretty bad \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris H
    Sep 15, 2023 at 7:41
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I'm not sure the metadata has disappeared - and it's more than possible they took the image you're seeing with a computer.

It's a trick I use whenever posting an image on line (or whenever I remember). I could deliberately strip metadata, but it's just as easy to have your favourite image viewer or editor displaying the picture and then to take and save a screenshot.

That way you're not posting the original image and avoiding information like dates, camera, lens, etc. when you don't want any recipients or potential future viewers to know all of that.

The person who sent you the e-mail could probably tell you whether they'd done that, but it sounds from the description like that might explain what you're seeing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Taking a screenshot of an image viewer is probably not very efficient in terms of quality per file-size vs. other ways you could rescale an image. And if the image was already small enough (in resolution and bytes), loses quality when you didn't have to. But sure, something like that could explain it, or if it was round-tripped through something that stripped metadata (social media?) \$\endgroup\$ Sep 14, 2023 at 21:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes - Absolutely right : if I'm looking for quality vs. file size I'll take a very different approach. If I'm looking to remove original metadata for something that looks "good enough for this" and takes two seconds, screenshots do it for me, but the answer's more a suggestion what could have happened here rather than a recommendation for everyone to adopt. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 15, 2023 at 11:14

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