How safe are your photos online?

Photo privacyFlickr, Photobucket, Slide, Zooomr just to name some of the most popular image hosting sites in the web. Add to this the numerous social networking sites like MySpace, Friendster, Multiply, Facebook etc, these networks too rely on giving their users the ability to post images online for the whole world or even just their family to view and enjoy.

All this thanks to the increasing power and portability of the digital camera and now, the common-place camera phones, ‘camera whores’ and photo enthusiasts have been given a whole new world to create, capture and store in .jpeg glory.

*photo by naughton321

However, this news from eFluxMedia about photos of Californian teen swimmers that were found on gay porn sites have led me to ask the question that is the title of this post. The story goes,

Numerous photos of teen water polo players from several South Californian high schools were posted on number of gay Web sites, a newspaper reported.

Photos of boys in swimming suit, some as young as 14, were displayed next to other photographs of nude young men and graphic sexual content, according to an Orange County Register investigation.

The result of the investigation caused upset amid parents, coaches and school officials. Some of the boys, which found out that some pictures of them were displayed on gay sites, were traumatized and are reportedly seeking counseling.

“These kids don’t look at what they do as shameful,” said Joan Gould, spokeswoman for a group of Orange County water polo parents.

“For someone to come in and take what these kids are doing and take it out of context and exploit these images, these kids and their schools, because you can see the school name on the caps, is just horrible.”

Scary isn’t it? First you were having a great time taking those photos and being in some of them, uploading them to your online photo album or blog for all your friends and contacts to view then the next thing you know, you’ve now become a pornstar!

This is not something new though, based on my web surfing years and joining numerous social networking sites, I’ve seen my share of stories and cases wherein people would use other member’s photos to be used on their own profiles and accounts as if the photos were of themselves! In some rare cases, evil-doers and cyber-stalkers were using fake photos to scam and trick their victims from doing indecent things on the web cam to fooling them into thinking they have just found the love of their lives and even into stealing their money or financial information.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that words are mightier than swords so when cases like this do happen, the toll on its victims can be tremendous and its effects equally tragic and horrifying.

Sure there are measures to protect our photos and ourselves. There are watermarks to be placed in images, disabling the right-click function in our webpages, licensing options and restricting access to our online photos. Still, how certain are we that our photos are just viewed or used legally and fairly with all the techniques to crack and by-pass safety measures both new and old, all readily available via the web?

Or are we to blame too? That we should also limit what photos we upload and share into the public via the web?

This questions dwell on the context of the photos that we take ourselves. But what of the photos of our selves that are taken by others? How sure or certain are we that those images are handled and used fairly, legally and with no consequences that we either disapprove of or be harmful to us?

One question has led to a plethora of more questions. Any one who would like to take a few and give their thoughts? I’ll be sharing mine in the next couple of days as I’ll give all of these more thought and reflection. In the meantime, I hope no one gets paranoid and takes down all of their photos from the web. 😉

8 Comments

  1. Yikes. That is scary. As a mother with two toddlers, I want to be able to share my photos with family online but not have to worry about this stuff. So far, the sites I have been looking at either have private settings or public settings. Do you (or anyone who sees this) know of any site that can offer better options in the direction of privacy than this? Thanks

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  2. Pixamo is the only site I know of that has private sharing groups (www.pixamo.com). You can put a group of friends into a sharing group and then give only that group access to certain photos or videos in your account. I'm really wary of putting images of my kids on the internet, but I have found Pixamo's sharing groups to be very reliable.

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  3. Just last night I was reading 419baiter.com (a site that features baiting the internet scammers). At first I was very amused with the games. However, I was horrified when the scammer posted a picture that was obviously nicked from some social networking site. Yikes.

    Yeah, we should take care in posting our photos. Maximize the security settings of the sites we use.

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  4. The novelty of showing off photos of my young family are gone now after I read this……shame on these people for exploiting the joys of others.

    Good post though, in highlighting this danger.

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  5. This is one of the reasons why we here at I.PH blogs put a lot of focus on providing our users the finest possible control over their privacy settings. All photos uploaded to our built in photo gallery, as well as every post in their blog, can be individually set to be seen only by people that the blog owner chooses. Users can also create their own groups for sharing private content and even give privileged access to people without I.PH accounts. The point here is that prudence and good judgment coupled with the right tools helps us better protect our privacy.

    Peter "Adam Mordo" Juan's last blog post..I AM APOCALYPSE!!!

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