Aperture does not strip location data from Photo Stream photos

I’ve been listening to friends like Jacqui Cheng warn about accidentally sharing one’s private location(s) when sharing iPhone photos, and today I finally decided to look into the issue. I wanted to find a way to strip GPS data when sharing certain photos, say, on my personal blog or social media.

I plugged my Photo Stream into Aperture a while ago, so I figured it would be a good place to start. Unfortunately, whether it’s an intentional behavior or a bug, the Metadata > Remove Locations command in Aperture does not actually remove GPS data from photos you downloaded through Photo Stream.

Try this:

  1. Find a Photo Stream photo with which to experiment
  2. Right-click and choose “Show in Project” (or import it into your library) in order to work with the actual photo and not just the Photo Stream preview (this part is particularly important; Aperture can’t really do much with photos in your Photo Stream)
  3. Select the photo and choose Metadata > Remove Locations (if you try that command on a Photo Stream photo, the option will be grayed out)
  4. Export a Version or Master copy of the photo to your desktop
  5. Open the photo in Preview and choose Tools > Show Inspector
  6. Click the (i) tab (More Info Inspector), then the GPS tab which should be in between tabs labeled Exif and IPTC
  7. Marvel at the GPS data which shouldn’t be there

John Morrison, a photographer friend, helped me test this and, as we were kicking around theories, posited that maybe Aperture does this because of the way it stores metadata separately and, in general, most of that information is actually untouchable.

But I think the fact Aperture can edit a photo’s actual timestamp rules that out, so I think it’s a bug. It’s a troublesome bug, too, if you’re looking to scrub private locations when exporting your photos for sharing anywhere besides Aperture’s limited selection of non-Photo Stream services, which includes only Facebook and Flickr.

If you want to simply scrub all location information from every photo you export, you can open Preferences > Export and make sure “Include location info in exported photos” is unchecked.

Personally, I would rather be able to keep location for most of my shared photos since geotagging stuff is fun and useful in many contexts. I would simply like Aperture to do what it claims when using the Remove Locations command or, even better: offer the option to remove location in the export dialog so I can still keep that information in my local library.

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