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The NFL’s Claims About Metadata in the Ezekiel Elliott Case

I’m not going to get into whether the 6 game suspension was fair or not, or the criminal investigation that was dropped, etc. At least not here.

I do, however, want to thank Deadspin for being one of the only sports sites to not just repeat verbatim what the NFL had to say about the “metadata” from the accusers photos, because it seems to me to be one of those terms that PR people throw out to just make people be quiet about an issue. In this case,  they seemed to infer that the NFL had some super technical tools that the Columbus Police did not have access to.


Harvey and NFL public-relations chief Joe Lockhart—a former White House press secretary—also talked several times about metadata. They said they had the metadata which showed what days the photos were taken, which lined up with when Thompson said Elliott hurt her, and that people saw her on that day confirmed they saw her injuries. Thompson shared those photos with people and then “had a conversation with at least one of these persons about the injury and who caused it,” Harvey said. At one point, they make sure to point out that they had the metadata and prosecutors didn’t, a mostly empty piece of chest-thumping considering that months earlier they were begging the same prosecutors to do them favors and share nonpublic documents and information (and also considering that acquiring metadata does not necessarily take savvy, sophistication, and high-tech tools).

How hard is it to get the correct date that a photo was taken with a smartphone? Here’s all of the information available about a photo I took with my smartphone, and then edited: (I will even bold the date and time the photo was taken)


  • iPhone 6s back camera 4.15mm f/2.2
  • ƒ/2.2
  • 4.2 mm
  • 1/2800
  • 25
  • Flash (off, did not fire)
  • JFIFVersion – 1.01
  • X-Resolution – 300 dpi
  • Y-Resolution – 300 dpi
  • Make – Apple
  • Orientation – Horizontal (normal)
  • Software – Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6.9 (Macintosh)
  • Date and Time (Modified) – 2017:07:08 23:11:25
  • ISO Speed – 25
  • Exif Version – 0230
  • Date and Time (Original) – 2017:07:08 11:41:12
  • Date and Time (Digitized) – 2017:07:08 11:41:12
  • Brightness Value – 11.65475824
  • Exposure Bias – 0 EV
  • Metering Mode – Multi-segment
  • Subject Area – 2015 1511 2217 1330
  • Sub Sec Time Original – 026
  • Sub Sec Time Digitized – 026
  • Color Space – sRGB
  • Sensing Method – One-chip color area
  • Scene Type – Directly photographed
  • Exposure Mode – Auto
  • White Balance – Auto
  • Focal Length (35mm format) – 29 mm
  • Scene Capture Type – Standard
  • Lens Info – 4.15mm f/2.2
  • Lens Make – Apple
  • Lens Model – iPhone 6s back camera 4.15mm f/2.2
  • XMPToolkit – XMP Core 5.4.0
  • Metadata Date – 2017:07:08 23:11:25-05:00
  • Creator Tool – Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6.9 (Macintosh)
  • Instance ID – xmp.iid:6d04f5e8-ec7d-49db-968e-77e9b5d8a0ca
  • Document ID – xmp.did:6d04f5e8-ec7d-49db-968e-77e9b5d8a0ca
  • Original Document ID – 6E4501621E7589447949E6FC1C3BD57D
  • Derived From Original Document ID – 6E4501621E7589447949E6FC1C3BD57D
  • Derived From Document ID – 6E4501621E7589447949E6FC1C3BD57D
  • History Action – derived
  • History Parameters – saved to new location
  • History Software Agent – Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6.9 (Macintosh)
  • History Changed – /
  • History When – 2017:07:08 23:11:25-05:00
  • History Instance ID – xmp.iid:6d04f5e8-ec7d-49db-968e-77e9b5d8a0ca
  • Format – image/jpeg
  • Coded Character Set – UTF8
  • Application Record Version – 2
  • Digital Creation Time – 11:41:12
  • Digital Creation Date – 2017:07:08
  • Date Created – 2017:07:08
  • Time Created – 11:41:12
  • IPTCDigest – 1ebfe453a3d779884a85e7f22b931b7f
  • Camera ID – 72157649729407924
  • Camera Type – Cameraphone

Wow, that’s a ton of information about that photo, surely I’m using some high-end eDiscovery or computer forensics tool, right? Nope, that’s the information that is available to anyone looking at the photo on Flickr, because the only thing you need to get that information, is a computer.

I lived in Columbus for well over 20 years. I can assure you, the Columbus Police Department has computers. The NFL spokespeople are just trying to hide behind some tech jargon, and too may media members are not educated enough to call them on it.


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