In this Facebook blog post, Sam Odio, product manager for Facebook photos writes “we also wanted to give people on Facebook the best quality photo product on the web.” But is it really the best on the web?
Pixel dimension is only one measure of image quality. Other important factors include jpg compression level and color space. Based on testing, Facebook recompresses all images regardless of upload size. A 466 x 700 pixel test image was uploaded with exif and IPTC data intact. The original size is 101 KB. 700 pixel is well within Facebook’s current size limit of 720 pixels so there is no need to downsize it. The downloaded version of the image is the same size but all the exif and IPTC data has been removed and it has been recompressed to 89 KB. Photographers often embed copyright data in the IPTC field and some courts have ruled the existence of such data is sufficient to serve as copyright notice. Therefore, the removal of such identifying information has serious consequences to any copyright holder in enforcing a claim against someone who may try to claim innocent infringement. A look at the National Geographic’s album with high resolution images point to the same results. The images do not contain any exif or IPTC data.
In an interview with Sam Odio, he stated
For security reasons we remove EXIF and IPTC data from the photo. The data is stored separately (and we don’t yet expose it to the user). My suggestion would be to add any copyright notice to the caption of the photo after uploading it.
Facebook faces serious challenges as they try to walk the tightrope between privacy and maintaining exif data integrity. Personally, I don’t buy the privacy assertion as any information embedded in exif can also be added as photo comments. At this point, most exif data does not contain personal information but as gps enabled cameras move into the marketplace, this may be a concern for the future. In any case, it’s important to realize that Facebook is not a site targeted to photographers so their decisions must take into consideration their 500 million users, even at the expense of some photographers.