IPTC Releases Results of 2016 Social Media Sites Photo Metadata Test

Important image metadata is not retained in images after upload to some of the most popular social media sites, according to a study by the International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC).  The missing data includes key copyright and identification information as well as descriptive data about the image.

The IPTC, a consortium of over 50 news agencies and media companies, sets international technical standards for news exchange, including metadata embedded in image files. The recent Social Media Sites Photo Metadata Test repeats a survey in 2013; while improvements are noted, some sites scored lower this time around.

The Social Media Sites Photo Metadata Test evaluated 15 top social media sites, and checked if embedded metadata was retained and displayed on upload to the sites or downloads of various version of the image. The results are displayed at www.embeddedmetadata.org/testresults.

Only one social media site, Behance, received favorable results for retaining and displaying embedded data. A few systems retained embedded metadata but failed to use it when displaying metadata on the web site. Ten sites removed at least some metadata when images were downloaded to a desktop environment.

“There are many important reasons to embed and preserve metadata – to protect copyrights, ensure proper licensing, track image use, smooth workflow, and make them searchable on- or offline,” said Michael Steidl, Managing Director of IPTC. “If users provide captions, dates, a copyright notice and the creator within their images, that data shouldn’t be removed when sharing them on social media websites without their knowledge.”

There may be several reasons social media services remove metadata – and some may not be intentional. Test results showed that in some cases, when images were downloaded to a desktop environment, the metadata was preserved if the size of the image remained unchanged. But if the image was rescaled, the metadata was stripped. “The quality assurance of these sites might not be aware that their software strips metadata inadvertently,” said Steidl.

“Because many of the social media sites are essentially free, users become the product, and not necessarily the customers,” said David Riecks, a photographer and metadata consultant who owns ControlledVocabulary.com and worked on the test. “Users are often not aware of these practices. There should be a sweet spot between these social sites preserving all metadata and removing it all. I’d like to see more engineers working together to find solutions.”

The Embedded Metadata Manifesto was launched by IPTC in 2011 to draw attention to the importance of retaining important data embedded in image files. The website, www.embeddedmetadata.org also includes Embedded Metadata Manifesto’s five guidelines for how metadata should be handled and preserved in digital media.

About IPTC: The IPTC, based in London, brings together the world’s leading news agencies, publishers and industry vendors. It develops and promotes efficient technical standards to improve the management and exchange of information between content providers, intermediaries and consumers. The standards enable easy, cost-effective and rapid innovation and include the Photo Metadata standard, the news exchange formats NewsML-G2, SportsML-G2 and NITF, rNews for marking up online news, the rights expression language RightsML, and NewsCodes taxonomies for categorizing news. Visit www.iptc.org  and follow on Twitter: @IPTC

Contact: Michael Steidl, Managing Director, mdirector@iptc.org, +44 (20) 3178 4922
David Riecks, photographer and metadata consultant, david@riecks.com, +1 (217) 689-1376

Extensis, a leading developer of software and services for creative professionals and workgroups, joins IPTC to extend the company’s commitment to advancing standards designed to making working with metadata easier.

“Extensis as system vendor has taken the essential role of enabling companies managing photos to make efficient use of IPTC’s widely used photo metadata standard”, said Michael Steidl, IPTC managing director and lead of the photo metadata work. “IPTC welcomes Extensis as new member of our organization; we will work jointly on improving professional photo workflows”, he added.

Read the Extensis press release.

See the list of current IPTC members and find more about joining our organisation.

IPTC develops and maintains a rich set of standards for the media exchange. Now you can easily track the latest updates of all IPTC standards by the new Twitter feed @IPTCupdates. Updated standards show a corresponding flag also on the standards overview page.

The first tracked update is the latest modification of the Media Topic NewsCodes.

Welcome to our newly launched website! After a few months of development and content evaluation we can proudly present a faster, lightweight, more business focused, and most importantly: mobile-ready website.

The IPTC is a volunteer-driven membership organization and it’s important that we are easily approachable — both literally and figuratively. Over the last few years, many of you have told us that you found it too difficult to locate information about the IPTC, our standards or even how to get in touch with us. So we fixed all that.

Focus on business value.

We have the full roster of IPTC standards explained, in brief and with a clear focus on the business value of each standard. Rapid innovation and agile product development cycles at web scale are practically impossible without the underpinning of solid technical standards — the IPTC delivers those, for a variety of use cases in today’s publishing and media environment. 

In short, our new website is aimed at those of you who are looking for those IPTC standards, for general information about the organization and for the benefits of being a member. (We maintain a separate website for developers with in-depth technical information.)

We’d also like to say thanks to Kevin and Jonathan, our design and development team at Iron to Iron; they really did a great job and are a pleasure to collaborate with.

Have a look around, let us know if something looks wrong or if you’re missing anything. And do consider joining us — we’d love to have you on board.


Andreas Gebhard
(Lead of the website project team)

Adding metadata to images costs money but developments in the image industry indicate a real return for those who invest in their metadata workflow now. In an increasingly automated workflow metadata drives distribution and management in all sectors. At the IPTC Photo Metadata Conference 2015 participants will hear from practitioners and game changers in rights management, software and user interfaces about how quality metadata improves business. The conference will be held on 4 June 2015 in Warsaw, Poland, in conjunction with the CEPIC Congress 2015. Find more at phmdc.org

IPTC announced a new version of its Photo Metadata Standard, the most widely used standard to describe photos. It allows users to add precise and reliable data about people, products, locations and artwork shown in an image, and provides an improved and flexible way to express rights associated with a picture. IPTC is the world’s leading standards body for the news media and aims to simplify the distribution of information. The specification of this standard can be downloaded from the Photo Metadata Standard section.