SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Do you love sharing photos with your family and friends online? It turns out, you might be sharing a lot more personal information than you think. Consumer Reports reveals how the photos you post online may contain surprising hidden data that could put you or your family at risk.
When you take a photo with a digital camera or a phone, details about things like when, where, and how the images were created are captured and stored automatically in a file in what's called Exif data, which is short for Exchangeable Image File Format. That information travels with the photo wherever you send it, whether you're posting it online or sharing it with a friend in a text.
Consumer Reports says that Exif data can be very useful.
RELATED: 7 On Your Side and Consumer Reports: Tips to protect your child's online presence
When you store photos in Google Photos or iCloud Photos, Exif data is preserved so that you can search for the photos by date and location. Both services allow you to remove location data from individual photos.
If you share pictures using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or WhatsApp, the Exif data will not be available to the people who see them.
RELATED: Consumer Reports: How to digitize your old pictures and video
Consumer Reports spoke with representatives from the popular social media companies and they all said that Exif data is not used for advertising purposes. But some companies like Facebook and Twitter do say they use Exif data for analytics and other business purposes.
Remember that Exif data typically travels with photos you text or email, so keep that in mind when you're sharing.
Prefer to just remove Exif data from your photos all together? Here is a link to Consumer Reports' website with advice on how to do it.
All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2019 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit ConsumerReports.org.
Take a look at all of 7 On Your Side's stories with Consumer Reports here.
Do your photos put your privacy at risk?
7 ON YOUR SIDE