EXIF Data May Have Revealed Location of Fugitive Software Tycoon John McAfee

If you’ve been following the news, you might have heard that a man John McAfee is on the run from police who want to question him about a murder. Not just any ol’ John McAfee, but the John McAfee, the once-ultra-rich founder of anti-virus software company McAfee. Well, a photograph published to the web today may have revealed the exact location McAfee is was hiding.

Just to fill you in a little more on the story, police in the Central American country of Belize are seeking McAfee as a “person of interest” in the death of a man who was McAfee’s neighbor. Although McAfee claims that he is innocent, he is currently in hiding due to his belief that the police will kill him if he is apprehended.

VICE magazine published a post today titled “We Are with John Mcafee Right Now, Suckers,” bragging that its editor-in-chief Rocco Castoro and one of its photographers are currently embedded with McAfee as he runs from the law. Included in the post was the above photograph.

Alex Wilhelm over at The Next Web decided to take a peek at the photograph’s EXIF data (which has since been wiped in the published photo on VICE). It turns out that the photo had its full metadata intact, revealing not just that it was captured using an iPhone 4S, but the exact location at which it was captured.

Here are some screenshots from showing the geotag info baked into the photo:

Based on the data, the photo was taken at a very specific place in Guatemala, at a complex with many buildings, cars, boats, and a pool.

The story gets stranger, though. Once this news broke, McAfee himself published a post on his personal blog, claiming that he had faked the EXIF data in the image in order to throw authorities off his trail:

I openly apologize to Vice Magazine for manipulating their recently published photo. I have been ferocioously put my place by Mr. Rocco for “interfering” with the objectivity of their reporting. I, for my own safety, manipulated the xif data on the image taken from my cellphone, and created a fake emrgency so that the urgency of movement led, as I knew it would, to the hasty posting on their website. I felt that our tenuous situation demanded action, and that was the action that I chose.

I do not believe that Vice will remain with me further. Again, my apologies.

Unless it was McAfee’s iPhone and not the VICE employees’, it seems unlikely that the programmer would have been able to secretly falsify the EXIF data between when it was shot and when it was uploaded.

Whether or not the EXIF data does show where McAfee was, he most certainly is not there anymore. We’re guessing he’s on the other side of the world by now.

Update: McAfee is now saying that the photo did give his position away (thx Jordan):

I apologize for all of the misdirections over the past few days. It was not easy to exit Belize and required many supporters in many countries. I am in Guatemala and will be meeting with Guatemalan officials this morning. If all goes well I will do a press conference tomorrow. Vice Magazine reporters are indeed with me in Guatemala. Yesterday was chaotic due to the accidental release of my exact co-ordinates by an unseasoned technician at Vice headquarters. We made it to safety in spite of this handicap. I had to cancel numerous interviews with the press yesterday because of this and I apologize to all of those affected.

  • 3ric15

    Ha. I got the GPS data in the EXIF from the picture at the top of this page.

  • xHarumoto


  • R-Photographer

    True, there is EXIF data in above image! It places this guy near Highway13 in Guatemala at Rio Dulce before Lake Isabel. I’ve been there years ago. It’s a little hotel.

  • Arnold Newman

    Hubris. I love it.

  • Dave


  • Prabawa

    Anybody else thinks that the guy on the left (is that mcAfee?) suffers from exceptionally high (for a cellphone camera) perspective distortion?
    Just thinking.

  • 9inchnail

    “We Are with John Mcafee Right Now, Suckers”

    How in the world is that even legally possible? If you know, where a person, that is wanted for murder, is hiding, aren’t you obliged to tell the authorities? Isn’t this aiding a fugitive? They should arrest this editor-in-chief and put him in the same whole as McAffee.

  • Prabawa

    Technically, he’s not wanted for murder just yet. “Person of interest”.

    Even if he were wanted for murder I suspect there’s some kind of legal loophole for journalism and academic purposes? In the book Freakonomics, a scientist infiltrates (?) a drug-dealing network; I don’t suppose he’s legally obligated to name names and provide testimonials and stuff…

  • Jason

    Who needs GPS through EXIF? Surely you can see his black-dyed goatee and mustache from space already?

  • Alan Dove

    Just seeing a fugitive, having lunch with him, talking to him, or posing for a photo with him isn’t generally a crime in free countries. That’s why the authorities are always offering rewards for information – it’s voluntary. Now, if you gave him a ride, let him stay in your house or lent him your passport you’d be aiding him, and that’s a crime, but interviewing someone for your magazine isn’t aid.

    Journalists have some legal protections for dealing with criminal sources, but I don’t think those would really apply here.

  • Alan Dove

    Exactly! Also looks surprisingly relaxed and happy for a guy who’s on the lam for murder.

  • bob cooley

    He’s not currently a suspect

    Journalists cover criminals (even warlords, cartel heads, etc.) regularly. In some cases there are Shield Laws that protect the journalist from revealing sources, exposure to illegal activity, etc.

    In this case, its on foreign soil, so an American publication covering something would only be subject to local legal issues.

    There is a lot that doesn’t make sense in this story – if Vice had a photographer there like they claim, its highly unlikely that they would be using McAfee’s iPhone to take images for their site.

    There’s a lot that smells funny in this whole account – so I think the reporting (by vice and McAfee) should be taken with a block of salt…

  • Lainer

    Good one.:)

  • Mark Wheadon

    So now we know where a cardboard cutout of John McAfee was hiding out…

  • Oskar?

    I just heard on the radio the guy was arrested in Guatemala.