The evolution of modern day photography has advanced to the point that nearly everyone has a camera or photo-capable electronic device. Each day an unknown number of images are uploaded to websites such as SmugMug, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and Picasa, making them the modern day scrapbook. While photo sharing may be a great way to share your world with friends and family, the issues of privacy and security have become increasingly important.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a digital image may be worth a thousand more. Each digital image file is encoded with data that a tech-savvy criminal could use against you. For example, information such as the date and time of an image could offer clues as to when you are home or away. This same data can detail the type of camera used to capture the image, giving thieves an inventory of your valuable gear. Even more frightening is the fact that many modern cameras are equipped with GPS (Global Positioning System) technology that could provide your home address or current location to anyone smart enough to decode the data. Digital images can offer much more than just pretty colors.
To help protect the privacy of their members, most photo sharing websites provide tools that help keep this data, or the images themselves, private. Flickr provides a way to alter privacy setting for images by defining groups of people who can access the photos. Assigning photos to a group, such as Family or Friends, allows users to control who can see what picture or keep them out of the public eye.
Photo sharing website SmugMug touts their security measures as “like Fort Knox for your photos.” They offer options such as password-protected images, galleries or your entire SmugMug site. Also offered is the ability to hide photos or tell search engines not to index your images for web searches. Additionally, you can designate your website as “Private”, requiring visitors to know the exact address to locate your images. This combination of options and features provides a great deal of protection and privacy.
Facebook also offers a very popular option for photo sharing, but it can sometimes test a user’s patience. The website has been known to change privacy settings with little notice to users, as well as enacting new terms of usage that can easily go unnoticed. While Facebook can still be a good option for sharing photos, users should pay close attention to any changes to privacy settings.
For users familiar with software programs such as Photoshop or Lightroom, altering or erasing image data can be an easy task. Making these changes prior to sharing photos can eliminate any possibility of a security breach.
Photo sharing should be a fun thing, not something that causes stress. Protecting your privacy and the security of your images is much easier once you know what issues to address and where to find the help you need. Before you consider uploading your images to a photo sharing website, take some time to evaluate how it will help protect your images and information. You may also be able to discuss your concerns with the website’s technical support department to ensure that everything is set up correctly in the beginning.