Reporting from Washington, D.C., Hunton & Williams associate Andrew Walsh writes:

Data embedded in photos can make a picture worth far more than a thousand words. To provide an example rich in irony, a well-known figure in Internet security who was wanted for police questioning recently inadvertently pinpointed his location for the authorities with an online posting of a photo containing Exchangeable Image File (“EXIF”) data. EXIF data is saved with JPG files on digital cameras and, if the camera has GPS, the EXIF data may include geolocation information such as the date, time, longitude, latitude and altitude of the photo.

It’s clear that geocoding embedded in image data raises privacy issues in the social media platform context. But the same data may create opportunities for the resolution of issues related to commercial transactions. For example:

  • GPS and EXIF data may one day be required in a property condition report or in the photo files embedded in a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment.
  • EXIF data could help a lender evaluate the location of valuable collateral and the trustworthiness of a borrower’s representations concerning the same.
  • EXIF data could help backstop a surveyor’s reading of a monument.
  • In aircraft leases, exact location data in conjunction with specific times may prove extremely useful since the location of different component parts may have tax treatment consequences.
  • EXIF data could help a landlord determine whether a tenant’s photo is, in fact, of the location at issue.

Accordingly, although the privacy concerns are real, EXIF data is likely to offer a wealth of potential value in a variety of transactional scenarios.