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Home / Tips and Tricks / Warning: Sensitive information that you release in photos can be revealed with some quick edits on your iPhone «iOS & iPhone :: Gadget hack

Warning: Sensitive information that you release in photos can be revealed with some quick edits on your iPhone «iOS & iPhone :: Gadget hack



These days, most photos we publish online or share with others come from our smartphones. When there is some personal information in them, such as debit card numbers, addresses, phone numbers, passwords and other sensitive information, it is easy to jump into your iPhone’s selection tool to blacken the text before sharing. But using a digital marker may not be enough to hide everything.

When using Markup in iOS, whether from photos, files or any other app or directly in the screenshot editor, you may only partially hide data that you want to keep secret. The cursor, aka highlighter, is a popular tool for rapid eclipse due to its thick features, but it has an opacity problem that is not visible to the naked eye.

Since it is a highlighter and not a solid marker, a swipe with the finger will create a transparent layer over the text, which effectively marks it ̵

1; even with 100 percent opacity. If you move your finger back and forth a few times, it creates the effect and seems to create a non-transparent transparent line that looks like it is hiding the stuff under it. But for many colors, and most importantly, black and white, the cursor can be adjusted in editing to reveal the sensitive information it hides.

Black text with the selection tools

To test it, use the markup in Markup to hide some text in a photo or screenshot. If you already have some with confusion, skip to the next section to see how you can reveal what is hidden.

Take a screenshot and tap its thumbnail, or open an image or document in an app like Photos, Files or Email and find the selection tools. Once you have done that, press the underline tool, which looks like a thick cursor. Press the cross bar again to set the thickness and opacity (make sure the slider is completely to the right). Then press the color picker and select black, which is the most common color for darkening.

Use your finger and drag over the information you want to hide, back and forth a few times until you can not see what is there. You may need to use a few layers to hide the text enough. When you are done, save the image or document as usual.

Remove selection obscuration from images

This is the fun part. Find an image that has black text, open it in the Photos app and press “Edit” at the top right to open the image editor. You use the tools at the bottom to remove the highlighter. Depending on how many black bars were used to hide the text, you should be able to reveal the hidden information with two to six adjustments. Test these and see what happens:

  • Brilliance: 100%
  • Shadows: 100%
  • Brightness: 100%

If you still can not find out what is very good, try adding one or all of these:

  • Exposure: 100%
  • Highlights: 100%
  • Contrast: –100%

Zoom in to the highlighted area if needed to see it better. Even if you will not be able to distinguish everything under the black highlighter, you should see enough. Whether it’s a phone number, email address, password or address, you have a good chance of making the most of it – if not all.

Several other variables can make this process easier or more difficult. If the black highlighter is not that thick, you can remove it slightly with just two or three different adjustment tools instead of all six above.

In addition, the color of the text and the background can make the process more difficult. If you are dealing with black or dark text with a light background, it will be easier to remove highlighter. But if the text is a light color, like yellow, and the background is also light, you may have a hard time seeing what is under the black highlighter.

Try on different background and highlight colors

Depending on the highlight color, you may need to use other photo editing tools or adjust the same tool up or down. For example, try using Brightness (100) on a red highlighter. If that does not work, try Highlights (100) as well. Still a no go? Then try some of the other adjustment tools.

For white highlighter, try Sharpness (100), Brightness (–100), Contrast (–100) and Brilliance (100). Below you can see several different overlay colors and how the photo editing tools affect them.

If you are in the dark, it does not make much difference. With the same steps as previously mentioned, black highlighter and white highlighter disappear with the right tools, as shown below.

Make it harder for people to disclose your private information

To hide sensitive data, you do not need to leave the selection tools in the dust. It is still possible to keep the things you disappear from coming back again. And if all else fails, there are third-party solutions.

Tip 1: Add more overlay layers

Highlighter, which gives you the best look, can still be used to hide content. You just need to use more layers. Instead of just swiping back and forth over what you are trying to hide, lift your finger off the screen before each new swipe. This will add heavier layers of highlighter, making it much harder to detect with simple adjustments.

Tip 2: Use Highlighter on some settings pages

Believe it or not, if you take a screenshot of specific information on your iPhone, iOS will help obscure that information when using Markup tools. It seems to work better when you cloud from an app like Photos, not from the screenshot editor, so be careful.

For example, the page “About” Settings -> General. If you swipe once or twice on, say, your serial number or IMEI, iOS thinks you’re marking it. But swipe three or four times, and iOS thinks you’re trying to hide it and helps you by making it impossible to see. Sometimes it only takes two swipes.

In “Password” (iOS 14) or “Passwords and Accounts” (iOS 13) in Settings, a screenshot removes the password from the page automatically – a nice security feature. But you can also use three or four swipes to obscure the username.

Tip 3: Use the pen tool instead

The pen tool in Markup, the icon on the far left, is a solid “marker”. When set to 100% opacity, a single layer of pencil case in any color is enough to keep what lies beneath it hidden from prying eyes and image editing tools.

A pen tool is also an option, but it works more like a highlighter because you need several layers to obscure something effectively. If the layers are thin, someone may be able to reveal the information later. So it is best to stick with the pen when you need 100% security.

Tip 4: Or even the mold tool

You can also use another selection tool to hide information. Instead of using the drawing tools, press the plus sign (+) at the bottom right and select one of the available shapes. Place it over the text to be hidden, then tap the icon at the bottom left to see more options.

For the arrow tool, you can make it a thick line instead. For the comment box, square and circle, you can fill it in so that everything is a solid color. Then you can choose a color if the current one is not what you want. No matter what you do in the image editing tools later, there is no way to reveal what is underneath.

Tip 5: Use a third-party app designed to obscure personal information

Even better, you can use professional software to obscure private information and faces properly. Using Image Scrubber, developed by Everest Pipkin, you can use a powerful cursor to hide information, an excellent blur tool for hiding faces, and you can even delete location metadata from the photo so it can not be traced back to where it was taken. There are other apps out there, but this web tool is our favorite right now.

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Cover photo, screenshots and GIFs of Nelson Aguilar / Gadget Hacks

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