As our reliance on digital devices becomes second nature, it’s easy to forget about the metadata embedded in digital files. This metadata can provide all kinds of useful — and revealing — facts about not just who created the information, but also precisely when and where it was created.
It also provided a dramatic, high-tech plot twist in one of the most captivating news stories of recent months.
Murder, intrigue, drug gangs, press manipulation…A software magnate turned outlaw…Amid the lurid true-life details of John McAfee’s story lies an instructive — or cautionary — reminder about the pervasiveness of not-so-hidden digital information.
Last December, journalists from Vice magazine who were traveling with the fugitive McAfee bragged about their exclusive access by posting a story on the Vice website, snarkily headlined, “We Are With John McAfee Right Now, Suckers.” As proof, they posted a photo of themselves with McAfee.
Shortly after the photo was posted, a reader noticed the picture contained embedded GPS location information in the metadata of the photo. He posted this to Twitter, and Guatemalan Police had McAfee in custody soon thereafter.
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