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Metadata Urgent Advice


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Hi everyone,

I'm really very sorry to bother you all, particularly as I have nothing to offer in return in terms of expertise, but I urgently need your expert help regarding the following:

In 2009 my garage was broken into and some audio/video equipment, which was being stored there, was stolen. My house was being rented out at the time and all my contents were in the garage, as agreed with my insurance company. In addition to receipts, I provided the insurance company with photos of the items that were stolen but showing when they were in my house in 2005. As the photos had my 5 year old twin boys faces on them I used Paint.Net to obscure their faces and then saved the altered photos at a smaller size to send to the insurance company by email. The next thing I know is I am arrested by the Police for fraud, thrown in a cell and my house is searched. It was alleged that the photos I had supplied, which I swear to you were taken in 2005, actually showed metadata of 2009. Hence the insurance company claimed I still had the items in 2009 after I had said they were stolen. I provided the original photos prior to using Paint.Net to the Police and they dropped the charges. The insurance company still insist that the photos were taken in 2009 and that if the photos had really been taken in 2005 altering them as I explained could not have changed the metadata. I am desperate to clear my name. The Police will not comment. The insurance company insist the photos were taken in 2009 and not 2005 despite the fact that this would also mean my children would have to be 9 years old on the photos when they are clearly seen as only about 5 (born 2000). Any information, help or advice you can give would be greatly appreciated. I need to know could altering images taken in 2005 and then saving them at a smaller size in Paint.Net in 2009 change the metadata in the same way? If so who or how can I prove this?

Thank you for taking the time to read my topic.

All the best.

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You say you provided the original photo to the police, but you don't say whether you gave it to the insurance company. I would think that should clear up the issue pretty quickly.

As for metadata, there are 2 types you need to worry about: EXIF and filesystem.

The filesystem metadata applies to any file on your computer. It has Date Created and Date Modified tags. Date Modified will be changed any time changes are made to the file. Date Created will not be changed, but does get reset if you make a copy of the file or use Save As to preserve the original.

EXIF metadata generally applies only to images and includes Date Taken and Date Modified. Paint.NET should preserve these, but it does not update this Date Modified tag. Copying the file in Windows or using Save As will also keep these. Copying the image (not the file) and pasting into a new image in Paint.NET will not preserve these, and they will be blank if you save that.

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Whichever type you're talking about, metadata is easily changed. You could have a photo taken in 2005 that is marked as 2009, or the other way around. It's not going to be legally foolproof unless it's managed by a server; for instance, e-mails on Hotmail or Exchange will have a timestamp that you aren't allowed to change.

However, this isn't a Paint.NET issue, and we are not lawyers. Please seek professional assistance, for your sake and ours.

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