Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cause for Concern: Social Media and Photos

I just discovered something kind of disquieting about social networks and photos.

So basically, Facebook and Google have features where all the photos on your phone are automatically (if you allow it) uploaded to their websites, to make it easier to share the photos if you decide to do so. However, in doing that, they have made it possible to see literally any photo I’ve taken, just by going to the right web link.

For example, on Facebook: 


Your photos are described as being private, until such a time that you choose to share them. However, directing yourself to this link (copied from Facebook), you will find the photo below I just took, which I have never shared.

You are promised that your photos are private, until such a time that you choose to publish them. However, once again, a link to the "private" photo (from the Google+ website) is all that is required to view it.

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-wrXZsTZa51g/UTisKnz8EkI/AAAAAAAAGks/Ey0N4kzK_z8/s791/61748584-85D1-49AC-A1C6-47A7BADAE759.JPG


This link works the exact same way, for the same photo. I never authorized anybody to make this photo public, I just took the photo with my phone and continued on with my day.


A file sharing company, Dropbox, has a similar feature which uploads all your photos to its site, but watch what happens when I go to the link for the same photo:

https://photos-5.dropbox.com/t/0/AADDyomyHbSJHsrq9wlbNdLLk8T_N1b0ZxUzUevOCQrYIg/12/11464386/jpeg/154x154/3/_/1/2/2013-03-07%2010.01.23.jpg/mkfTmIRtVTf7Eu-AG6Oq3o290E0KGA5I0HDvByIxja0?size=1280x960


This is what should happen, you get a link saying you shouldn’t be here, and asking you to log in to see the photo. The photo is private, and is treated as such.

This is a huge privacy issue, and though I don't really take any sensitive photos, if I did this would really set me off. It REALLY shouldn’t happen; millions of photos per day are being published for anybody with time and the internet to see…

You should absolutely think twice about allowing this if you are someone who regularly takes photos on your phone that you might not want just anybody to see.

By the way, to turn off these features, there are instructions here:

for Facebook:


and Google+: