"Nothing ever goes away once it is posed online".
With smart phones becoming cheaper, photographs have become all pervasive. Billions of photos are now taken in a day, and all of them potentially contain valuable information. In this chapter, we shall discuss the information, a photograph contains and the ways and means to extract this information. Also, we shall read about the photo meta-data and its relevance.
When we search on individual photo-sharing sites like Flickr or Picasa, it only displays the results restricted to that site. However, searching on Google, displays the photos that match the terms on Flickr and Picasa, and thousands of additional services. This is because Google has indexed most of the searchable sites.
So, we should avoid individual searches on various photo-sharing websites. Rather we should search on https://images.google.com. We can also filter the Google image search results by:
Similarly, we can search on Bing search engine by navigating to https://bing.com/images/
A reverse image search involves providing an image to a search engine for analysis. The search results vary from site to site and depending on the site used, the search results will either include:
Similarly, some of the sites can even determine the age and sex of the target in the photo.
Reverse image search can be used to identify other websites on which the subject has used the same or similar image.
Real Life Application:
We have used this technique to determine whether the Display Profile used by a Facebook user is unique or a stock image. In a criminal defamation case, a boy had posted modified obscene image of his ex – girlfriend on numerous sites. This technique helped identify those sites.
Google Reverse Image Search:
Google reverse image search https://images.google.com/ is the most powerful reverse search engine available today. To conduct a reverse image search:
The results then provide exact duplicates or similar looking images on other websites.
Adding context to a reverse image search field can provide more accurate results. For example, a reverse image search of a photo from Facebook may provide many undesired results, but providing the name will lead to far more accurate information.
TinEye (https://tineye.com/) is another reverse image search website. The site tends to focus on exact duplicate images, so the results are usually fewer then Google. Similar to Google reverse image site, we may upload an image from the device or paste the exact link to the photo.
Pictriev service (www.pictriev.com/) analyses a given photo and locates the additional images. However, an additional feature of Pictriev is prediction of age and sex of the target. Similar to the above websites, we may provide exact URL of the image or upload an image from the device.
Image Search Options Firefox Add-on:
After installation, the right click of mouse provides an option “Image Search Option”. Thus, automates the reverse image search on:
Users can also add their own sites, customize existing ones and search multiple sites at the same time.
Photo sharing sites allow users to create a free account, and then upload photographs to his/ her account or profile. The images remain on the website until the user removes them. Anyone with an internet connection can search these images. There are several photo-sharing sites, and Flickr is one of the most popular among them.
Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/) has tens of billions of photos and over 2 million groups. The search bar at the top of the main page allows a user to search by:
To avoid getting over-whelmed by results, the search term should be as specific as possible. Searching by name provides various Flickr profiles. Opening the profile shows the additional photos uploaded by that user, his/ her followers etc.
Back in the early film days, photographers were forced to carry a pen and a notepad to record important information about an image such as shutter speed, aperture and date. The data helped any newbie understand what went wrong when an image lacked the desired quality. But, it was a very painful process. Today, every modern digital camera has the capability to record this information, right into the photographs.
This Exif data is not part of the actual image, instead embedded into the physical file. It comprises a range of settings such as ISO speed, shutter speed, aperture, white balance, camera model, date and time, lens type, focal length and much more. These settings are used to organize photographs, perform searches and provide vital information to photographers about how a particular photograph was captured.
Some photographers strip Exif data from their images to protect their work. Some websites like Facebook automatically scrub or remove this data before storing on their servers. What’s App too compresses the photo, and the data gets lost. Thus, a digital photo online may not have this data intact. On the other hand, an uncompressed image is most likely to have this data. Any image removed directly from a digital camera card will always have this data. To read this information, we need specific tools which we shall discuss now.
Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer:
Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer (exif.regex.info/exif.cgi) is considered the industry standard for viewing Exif data in an image. We can either copy and paste the address of an online image for analysis or upload an image from our device.
The first section of the result identifies “Basic image information” which includes camera, lens, exposure, flash, date, location, file and colour encoding. The next section identifies EXIF data which includes camera model name, software, modify date, exposure time, date/ time original, create date, shutter speed value, aperture value, brightness value, exif image size, flash, focal length, exposure mode, white balance, GPS address, GPS date stamp, compression, resolution, thumbnail image and much more. There are two more sections – File and Composite which provides additional pieces of information.
Exif Viewer Firefox Add-on:
This extension extracts and displays the Exif (Exchangeable Image File) metadata. After installation, the right click of mouse provides an option “Exif Viewer”.
Social networks like Facebook “scrub” meta-data to protect the user privacy. However, Picassa, Drop-box, Flickr, blogs and personal web-sites may have images with the Exif data intact.
Almost all the smart phones today have GPS feature, and the GPS is on by default. So, if a user doesn’t disable the geo-tagging of photos in the camera settings, the Exif data of the photo shall contain the GPS co-ordinates of the place where the photo was taken. For example, the previous photo has this information within the Exif data. We advise users to disable geo-tagging of photos for enhanced levels of privacy.
An important piece of information within the Exif data is the thumbnail image. It’s a smaller version of the original photo and embedded within the Exif data. When a user crops the image, this original smaller version may not get over-written. Programs like Microsoft Photo Editor and Photoshop over-write the data but keep both the images identical. Some other programs, do not over-write this data at all. The result is the presence of the un-cropped and original image within the Exif data of the cropped photo.
Exif data related notable privacy and security incidents:
Cat Schwartz accidentally exposed her breasts:
Geotag reveled that John McAfee is hiding in Guatemala:
Geotag reveled the home address of Adam Savage:
Geotag led to the destruction of American Apache helicopters:
Geotag led to the arrest of a hacker:
"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place".
- Eric Schmidt, former executive Chairman Google
With the abundance of smart-phones online videos have also become common. Most of us have used the camera phone as video camera.
In India, when an accident, fight or abnormal activity happens people start recording the event. Such a video can contain a huge amount of information for police/ investigators.
You Tube (https://www.youtube.com/) is the most popular video sharing site today. It is so popular that about 4 billion videos are viewed every day and about 8 years equivalent of content is uploaded every day!
Every You Tube page has a search field at the top. This search field is used to identify the videos that users upload in their channel, using the search terms. At times, a common search term like old Bollywood songs, gives overwhelming number of results. To overcome this problem, You Tube allows us to filter the results by:
These “filters” can be used to reduce the results to manageable proportions. This “filter button” is above the first video result.
For Law Enforcement Authorities and investigators, identifying and locating a user’s channel is also of relevance. This is because, it can reveal all the videos uploaded by that user on the You Tube.
Many of the videos on You Tube have geographical restrictions. Such videos can be viewed only in some countries as they are blocked in others. In such cases, we should use VPN. VPN allows us to connect to a server in a country, where the video is not blocked. Thus, the site assumes the user to be residing in a non-blocked country, and opens up the video for viewing.
To read more about VPN read the chapter “Prepare Your Computer”. There are both free and paid versions, though paid ones are more reliable as generally they don’t keep the user logs nor make profit by selling the customers data.
Metadata And Reverse Image Search:
In the previous chapter of “Photograph” we read how to read the meta-data of a photo and the process to conduct its reverse search. In this section, we shall learn the process to extract the meta-data of a video and conduct its naive reverse search.
The result then includes the following:
Tapping the “reverse image search” option next to the Thumbnails opens a reverse image search on Google for the selected image.
How To Download Sub-titles?
You Tube provides sub-titles for most of the videos. To see the sub-titles while watching a video, one needs to click on the closed captioning icon (cc) in the lower left portion of the video box. These subtitles are contained within a small text file, which also has the timestamp to identify the frame where each piece of text is spoken.
One can also download these subtitles through the Downsub website (downsub.com/). To download, copy and paste the full URL of the You Tube video into this website and press enter. The result then displays the download links in multiple languages, with English at the top.
Though most of us are regular YouTube user, but we rarely think of customising it. However, it’s very much possible to tweak YouTube to get more from this premium video sharing site. These include special YouTube URLs which enables us to send link to any part of the video, loop a video indefinitely, create GIFs and much more. In this section, we shall deal with these excellent but lesser known YouTube features.
Making GIF from a YouTube Video:
YouTube allows users to create animated GIF from any part of a YouTube video, by adding the term “gif” before the YouTube link of the video. For example, if the video of interest, to you is –
Then, to create GIF the required URL is –
This new link shall bring you to the site “gifs.com”. Here, you may add a variety of special effects or crop the GIF.
Once done, you are provided a link that shall enable you to share the GIF so created with others, including on the social networking sites. Alternatively, you may download the GIF for personal use.
YouTube interface is also designed for apps on consoles and smart TVs. YouTube TV has fewer shortcuts that are easier for remotes. The URL for the same is –
How to Loop a Video Infinitely:
Sometimes we want to loop a video infinitely especially in cases of music or soundtracks. The process is to add “repeater” after youtube in the URL. This opens the video at the site “YouTubeRepater.com” which then loops the video indefinitely.
For example, if your video of interest is –
Then the custom URL is –
How to Start a YouTube Video from Point of Interest:
Typically, when we copy a link of a YouTube video, it starts from the beginning. However, at times we wish the video to start from a specific point. To do so, we can append a time stamp to the URL of the video. For example, if the video of interest is –
And, we wish the video to start from time, t=a minutes and b seconds. Then, the required URL is –
Live video streaming services have the ability to turn a cell phone camera into an immediate video streaming device, capable of broadcasting to billions of people. To use these services, the user has to download and execute the application in their smart phone. The live video is then transmitted to the host which in turn broadcasts the live stream on their websites for simultaneous viewers to see. However, there is an average delay time of few seconds.
Some of these Live video streaming service providers include:
Most of us have faced difficulty at some point, in downloading an online video. Sometimes the process is too tedious to execute or the process is not known at all. To eliminate these issues, consider using the following resources:
India has one of the cheapest and fastest data network. This has enabled proliferation of mobile devices and video streaming .There has been an exponential increase in the number of people accessing video content in the last few years. So, we understood some of the simple methods in this chapter, to enhance our video world experience.