Online privacy, Facebook and our pictures

Privacy in cyberspace: what's a realistic expectation?

Privacy as our parents knew it is dead. We attended its funeral when we ushered in the internet.

Thanks to cheap data storage, search engines, and yes, Facebook, if we want to find someone, our chances are pretty good.

The average Facebook user is probably very comfortable with their circle of friends seeing their pictures.

I don’t know how many friends the average user has.

Fifty? Hundreds? Thousands? My guess?

Younger users will be more cavalier  about who they are willing to share their pictures and info with.

No doubt their “coolness” depends on how many FB friends they have.

For the rest of us, it means we have to be ever vigilant and always be on the lookout for changes especially in their privacy controls.

So, don’t just sign up, log in and be friendly, stay on top of things.

Finding Friends

FB’s popularity and dominance stems from how it seems to latch on to first and last names and even nicknames and email addresses and then connects everyone.

The “Friend Finder” is one way, but that’s something the user has to actively engage, meaning,

“I have a person in mind, say an old flame I want to look up, let me see what she looks like today.”


“What about the gal who didn’t give me the time of the day back when…”

But the more disingenuous or sinister one is Suggestions.

Peter Phun” (your friend) suggests you friend “Osama Bin Laden

Excuse me, “For the record, I have never recommended any of my FB friends to befriend someone.”

At most, I might say, “I am friends with (insert your favorite hottie) on Facebook.  Now that we’re friends, go look under my friends’ list.

By the way, the State of California passed a law (SB1411) at the start of this year that makes it a misdemeanor to impersonate someone online.

I added my brother as a friend recently, I got a spate of friend suggestions from him.

I was under the impression he actually made those suggestion, after all, he’s family.

A case of impersonation? What do you think?

FB’s appetite for names and email addresses never ceases.

Even after you sign up, under the guise of increasing security, it suggests to you to add more email addresses because?

Most folks use more than one email addresss, don’t you?

So…”what’s wrong with the security question I set up?” Wouldn’t that be sufficient to prove I am who I say I am?

How many people are going to know that I, like Bond villain, Scaramanga, have a third nipple?

Disable Download Full Resolution Image

I first noticed this option recently when I uploaded a picture and its file size was bigger than usual.

Web-savvy folks know that once a picture’s pixel dimension is a certain size, it doesn’t make the picture look better on the end users’s monitor.

It just makes that picture load a lot slower.

When I viewed my “larger-than-usual picture”  on FB, I saw this option “Download the full resolution picture

Before those of you who are web-savvy start wagging your finger at me for uploading large jpegs, I want to point out that the majority of users aren’t even aware of what pixels are, so please bear with me.

So if you’re one of those FB users who just jumped in and didn’t change any settings at all, this is what the default settings look like:

On the recommended or default setting, "your status, photos & posts" is visible to  "Everyone". You may like it that way, but your friends may not.

Credit to Martin Christopher for making me aware that I’m not the only person who has a problem about this default setting.

Here’s the issue. If I only uploaded images of me and my family, I guess that would be fine.

But what happens if I don’t know any better?

Say, I leave my privacy settings on default, upload pictures of friends straight out of the camera without reducing the jpegs file size, then proceed to caption and identify them?

Even if I don’t tag those pictures, the captions are now visible for all to see.

Now, as the owner of the image, I might be allowing strangers access to these high resolution images too, wouldn’t I?

A prank in photoshop is there to be had but let’s not scare ourselves silly imagining worse.

So, a good compromise is to do what Martin Christopher suggests and let the owner of the picture have some say.

What we can do

  • The most obvious answer is to not use Facebook
  • Change your privacy settings and continue to be vigilant about changes
  • Don’t upload high resolution images (those without image editing software, head to PikNik and resize your pictures there first)
  • Complain, start a Page about this?

Under FB’s terms, Amendments #13

If more than 7,000 users comment on the proposed change, we will also give you the opportunity to participate in a vote in which you will be provided alternatives. The vote shall be binding on us if more than 30% of all active registered users as of the date of the notice vote.

So, there you have it. Anyone out there care to take this on?

In case my website goes down, blame it on:

  • my use of the word Osama Bin Laden triggering all kinds of alarms on the Homeland Security radar
  • my wife finding out about my efforts to reconnect with an old flame
  • my being sued by James Bond creators for “borrowing” Scaramanga’s distinguishing supernumerary nipple
  • my site being slammed after this post goes viral

Peter Phun Photography |

11 thoughts on “Online privacy, Facebook and our pictures”

  1. Peter said: The thing about websites like FB is that your friends may not understand that and they can unknowingly expose you.

    Hmmm… hadn’t thought of that. Good point.

    Have Fun,

  2. True, the sharing aspect becomes more widespread in cyberspace. Nothing can be unsaid; there is a version of it stored somewhere, whether you delete it from the original source or not. And if it was a friend (or EX friend, in the case of someone who betrays my trust by sharing what I told them in confidence), you don’t have permissions to get into that account and delete what was posted.

    People who have had word-of-mouth rumors spread about them back in the day would still be able to relate, though. When you go that 20th year high school reunion and those old stories are still alive, even if they were never posted online, you know what I’m talking about. 🙂

  3. Wanda,
    Word-of-mouth indeed. Except in Facebook and cyberspace in general, you are no longer the owner of what is shared since search engines continually gather and collect what is published.

    Which makes me wonder how websites like Reputation Defender works.

    FB says even after you remove your content and close your account, there is no way for them to guarantee it’s gone.

  4. Thank you, Peter and DeeAnn!

    I’ve been thinking more about the privacy side of things, for example, sharing something with a friend who then shares it with others. That is the same as word-of-mouth; if someone tells me something in confidence, I would neither speak it nor email it nor write it in a letter nor post it on FB. I expect the same of my friends. It’s the same problem as before, just using a different vehicle (computers versus tongues).

  5. Hi Vicki,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. Under the terms of use, the fact that you are uploading your images to Facebook means you are granting Facebook the right to use your images for free for as long as you keep them there. The watermarks don’t do much beyond identify them as yours.

    And you’re right about how Facebook provides a way to connect and share with your sister who is abroad.

    I’m sure you know about Skype which may be the better way to connect with your sister. Skype has video, audio and text chat capability.

    Should you want to share pictures and chat about it, and it also has a screen sharing capabilities where you can see each other’s computer screen.

  6. I have a Facebook page but for only one reason, to keep intouch easiely with my sister overseas. I have twelve “actual” friends, these are people I KNOW. I don’t accept any friend requests from people I don’t know and I don’t have my settings set to where anyone can search for me or look at my page. As far as any photos I post, I post them at a low rez and plaster copyrights all over the images. I don’t post anything personal. I don’t rally like Facebook, but it is nice to chat and share pictures with my sister. Whenever she and her husband move back to the states, I will cancel my Facebook account.

    As far as I am conserned, the owner of the Facebook website, since he doesn’t bother to make changes to protect the privacy of the users only has evil entensions for all the information that is on that site. Any decient person would make these changes to make sure the users are safe!

  7. Hello Jeff,
    Thanks for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment. You’re correct about disclosing to others only what you’re comfortable with.

    The thing about websites like FB is that your friends may not understand that and they can unknowingly expose you.

    For instance, if they say they have a friend named “Peter” who used to be a woman.

    Busybodies can go look under their friends’ list, it wouldn’t take much to narrow down who they’re talking about.

    I guess what I’m saying is, you can control what you disclose but on a social media site, unless you have a really small number of friends and are also super vigilant, but you can’t always control what they say.

  8. I have no problem with privacy online. That’s because I follow a simple rule: Don’t put anything online that you don’t want the world to see. I learned this many years ago when I found a site where you can enter your domain name and see what data the website pulls the instant you connect. In less than a second, three pages of data were downloaded, including: my city and state, my hardware configuration, all the software on my computer and much more. If you don’t want the world to know something, keep it off line.

    Have Fun,

  9. Thanks Peter for PicNik url.
    Will be using for my ‘barter’ band photos despite shooting them small to being with.
    Despite many like seeing photos that nite @ 2a, I really should have edited better.
    FB fotos never really die, but I just deleted a lot.

    I too like W. Lotus blog look.

  10. Hi Wanda,
    You are absolutely correct about those terms of service on social media sites.

    BTW, I love the look of your blog.

    Most photographers are aware of those terms I’m sure, but they can’t resist the allure of how targeted Facebook can be, I suppose.

    They figure the exposure is worth that risk. I’m not entirely sold either. For me, it’s an experiment as I watch my website statistics. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Because FB’s terms of service (and Flickr’s, and just about every other social networking and sharing site out there) states that by uploading photos I give them express permission to use those photos in any way they please forever without compensating me, I never upload high-res photos to FB (or my blog). If it is a photo I know I intend to sell, I don’t upload it at all.

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