Social media networks stripping data from digital photos – what does this mean for genealogists? There’s an interesting post up on The Signal, the digital preservation blog from the Library of Congress, about social media networks stripping data from your digital photos when they are posted. This means that information about the people, geographical locations, dates, and other data critical to understanding family photographs, is removed by Facebook.

The issue is of concern to professional photographers, who lose their copyright attribution, but it’s also a preservation issue of interest to genealogists.

The blog post notes:

One of my neighbors stored all of his digital photos on a big desktop computer with multiple hard drives but he didn’t have his images backed up. After an electrical-power surge, the motherboard and all the hard drives were ruined. The neighbor had uploaded images to Facebook, so he thought that not everything was lost.

But Facebook re-sized his images when they were uploaded and during this process either their metadata was removed or Facebook stored this information separately from the images. All my neighbor had left were smaller versions of the images with the same date stamp (representing the day they were downloaded). This meant it wasn’t even possible for him to sort the photos into any chronological order.

 If you were a musician, would you consider uploading your MP3 audio files to a site if you knew that the process removed the name of the song, the album it was from, the name of the band and your copyright notice? If you wouldn’t do that, then why should it be different for photos?

Until this issue is resolved, it’s another example of why it’s important for you to own your own data and not trust third parties to maintain it for you.