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I received a MMS with a picture on my phone, and I was wondering if that picture was actually taken from my contact phone or something else (like downloaded from any site and then sent by MMS).

It may seem like nothing, but due the nature of this picture, it could have some consequences for me depending on that picture being legit or not. I also have very good reasons to not trust my contact about this.

So, from some tests I did, sending a picture by MMS doesn't remove/change metadata, neither change its name, only its resolution might differ due to the compression.

Also with 3 differents phones, all added the metadata by default + some infos about the date of the picture, or a numerotation in the name.

Two things bother me with this picture and make me wonder if it's actually legit:

  • the name of picture taken from any phone usually have some naming convention, being either something including the date/hour, or some numerotation. For this picture, the name is "PART_somenumber.jpg", and this number does not match in any way the date of the said photo, and is way too big for being a simple numerotation.
  • there no Exif metadata at all in this picture.

I highly doubt that my contact would have removed the Exif metadata from that picture or even made any change to it in any way, but that's still a possibility.

So how likely it is that this would be the default behavior of the android smartphone of my contact for a picture actually taken with the phone?

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It is normal for photos sent via MMS to be downsized, recompressed, and stripped of metadata. This is to reduce the amount of data to transfer.

Nothing is suspicious in this in itself — although it sounds like that doesn't help your situation. If you need an unmodified original, ask for it to be sent a different way — but of course that doesn't guarantee that the image itself is legit. (Metadata could be faked.)

  • Additionally, if the picture was copied from some hosting service (such as Imgur, and quite a few others I'm sure), metadata is often stripped off when the image was uploaded there. – scottbb Feb 23 '18 at 2:27
  • For all others pictures I received via MMS, metadata was indeed removed, but only partly. Using identify from ImageMagick, I always got the same two lines of exif metadata for every pictures taken with phone camera. For all except this one. But thanks anyway. – Dark Sinus Feb 23 '18 at 9:14
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Do you know the model of phone used by your contact? You could check that the image dimensions match the resolution of that phone's camera. If not, they could have used an app to crop the photo. That may be how the metadata was lost... I'm just speculating.

If the sizes don't match up you could ask your contact if they cropped the image and why. IMO that is a less accusatory way to inquire about the source of the image than accusing your contact of stripping the metadata. You might also try asking for a second photo. I don't know anyone who takes just one photo of something important.

If you believe that the photo came from the internet you could try to find it using reverse image searches like tineye or Google Reverse Image

You might also want to seek out an imaging expert to analyze the photo for you. Given supposed information about time, place, and subject, an expert can check things like shadow, shading, and basic photogrammetry to validate the claims.

FWIW, I routinely strip metadata from my photos and crop them before sharing them with people. That is because I use my phone for work and share photos with vendors. I must ensure that certain details are kept company confidential. Time and place can tell you quite a bit of information. It could just be a habit (or even automatic process) for your contact.

One thing I have learned over the years: photos have unsure legal footing. Photos not captured by law enforcement are difficult to admit into court. If those consequences you mention are legal consequences, you would do well to get in touch with a lawyer, private eye, law enforcement or some combination thereof to help you proceed in a way that protects your interests.

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