Last night I did an “Audit” of 10 of my Facebook friends to see how secure their privacy settings were. Some had indicated to me they were happy with the level of privacy they had on Facebook.
To do this I logged out of my account, and took a look at their Facebook profiles from my husband’s account which is totally disconnected from mine, as we are not even friends on Facebook.
What I found was surprising, as a “Stranger” I had the ability to download pictures from 6 of my friends profiles, because they had posted their pictures publicly, these included pictures of their children, some under 10 years old, some children in school uniform, some in swimmers, and some with names attached. Why is this a problem you might ask?
In the past, before a parent Cyber Safety talk held at a school, I’ve also done the same audit with the students Facebook accounts at the request of the school. It’s very easy, and quite legal, just get a list of the names, and search for them on Facebook, or just do a search for the school, and see if any students show up. I unfortunately found at least 50% of children without any privacy settings, and some of those had very provocative pictures, some as young as 12yrs old.
Facebook’s Open Door Policy
Facebook have changed their Terms Of Service. They state that no longer own our images on their platform, but they reserve the right to show them to everyone publicly. They leave it up to each user to enable or disable the available privacy settings. All privacy settings for over 18yr old accounts are by default public, you have to “opt out” or “enable settings” to protect your privacy.
Who’s Downloading Our Photos?
Images of children are being downloaded by unsavoury types and uploaded to illegal websites. This is a fact, a recent story about 17 young girls finding out that their perfectly innocent pictures along with their names and the name of the school they all attended were uploaded to a pedophile website, left them and their loved ones feeling violated and sickened. This story went around the world and made the national news over here as well. On the one hand this incident has alerted teens and their parents to the consequences of not having their personal photos and identities protected on social media, but on the other hand it’s also highlighted how easy it is for our photos to be misused. Perverts no longer have to stalk school playgrounds or public beaches to get photos of children, they just cruise Facebook, its just too easy. It is however more probable that your child’s public Facebook photos will be misused by another child more than by a pedophile, but kids can be very cruel and it will hurt, and can’t ever be securely erased. and see Here:
Isn’t Fully Clothed OK?
I’m not a psychiatrist, I don’t know why an adult would find pictures of clothed or semi-clothed children desirable, but I do know that when police raid premises that are known to have child pornography there are often pictures found of fully clothed children amongst the pornographic. I don’t know how you feel about that, but I care that my kids images are secure and not abused in anyway clothed or unclothed.
Also note: In Australia and many other places in the world taking pictures of children without their parents permission and using them for promotion or uploading to websites can be illegal. It matters not that they are fully or semi clothed or naked. And there is a clear line between taking a shot at the beach with kids in the background (although I try very hard never to do that) and purposely stalking a child to take a picture for your own personal use. To me it’s no different if a pervert takes a picture of my child at the beach to misuse or finds that picture online due to my negligence, it’s a horrible feeling and I’ll protect my child as much as I can.
Surely This Is A Rare Occurrence?
You may not yet have heard of anyone you know personally having a problem with a photo that belongs to them on Facebook, Flickr or Instagram, but it is happening, and the harm done can be anything from another child downloading your child’s picture to use it in a way to cyber bully, ridicule or deface, or by pedophiles using them for sexual satisfaction, as illustrated in the story above. It’s far more common for this abuse to happen to teens, but with more underaged kids on Facebook I think the lack of awareness around privacy and photos should be very concerning. Facebook is now seen as easy pickings for people who have warped or nasty intentions. And it is going to get worse….because there is far more awareness out there of how many people are lax with their privacy settings, and far more photos being uploaded.
Do we keep this quiet to avoid publicising this issue? Or do we alert parents and teens of the potential violations that can occure by posting pictures of vulnerable children online? I would rather parents know what the potential consequences are, and then with that knowledge make informed decisions.
Pedophiles Are Not The Only Danger with posting a picture of your child or teen online. Downloaded Facebook pictures are commonly being defaced with Photoshop, with slogans and slurs used for fake Facebook accounts to bully, and are also being downloaded and then uploaded onto bullying websites. I personally know of one young lady this happened to recently. A completely innocent photo of her ended up on a website called Jerk.com where she was being voted up as a “Jerk” She was devastated, not only was her image stolen from Facebook, but her name was included, she was unable to remove her identity from the site. The owners of this site, are in the United States and are anonymous, and she and her parents have decided to live with it rather than take legal action which may or may not be able to have it removed and will cost a lot of money. Her digital identity is no longer clean, Google her name and guess what comes up. She deleted her Facebook account and has no idea who did this, but suspects it was someone who knows her personally.
Is Facebook & Google Photo Recognition Dangerous?
Facebook’s photo recognition is “on” by default on Facebook unless you disable it, it means if a photo looks like you when it’s being tagged by the uploader, your identity may be suggested as being the person in the picture, and you can be either incorrectly tagged or tagged on a potentially embarrassing picture you never intended to end up on Facebook, you have no say in this unless you disable auto tagging. You can appeal to have the tag removed later if you find it objectionable, but by then it may be too late…reputation ruined!
Google includes facial recognition in image search options, so whether your name is attached to a photo or not will not matter. You will be identified correctly or incorrectly. Google already have Google Image Search which can show where a photo has been uploaded to the internet. If Facebook are getting away with it, Google can too. Learn how to turn it off here!
But I Have All The Privacy Settings Set Up!
You may think you do, but unless you have every single piece of information about you hidden, auto tagging off, facial recognition turned off, photos “only seen by me”, I’m afraid you don’t….If your friend has a public account, and you comment on their picture, it will end up being seen on their wall, and therefor by anyone, and then your profile can be seen if you haven’t got your settings done correctly. See this quick trick to see what a perfect strangers sees about your profile online, and clean it up!
Isn’t A Photo OK If We Protect Their Name?
Is your surname the same as your child’s on Facebook? Recognisable personal photos are as much part of you and your child’s identity as much as their name and location is, even if a name is not associated with the photos, your child’s image can be misused, and if uploaded by you, your child has no say in it. If your child’s photo is stolen and misused, but no name is associated with it, there is always a risk that one day the anonymous image may be recognised as your child, and it may go public. Also if you have inadvertently mentioned your child’s name on Facebook, or they have been tagged by you or others, and they also have a Facebook account ,not hidden from public search, (Make sure they have a Minor account NOT an adult one!) their account will be found easily on Facebook from your pictures.
What about Child Models And Actors?
Having your child model for an online site which can be seen world wide is hopefully by full consent. And every parents must decide for themselves how they would feel if a photo of their child modelling a swim suit ends up being abused in some way. When someone you know or a complete stranger steals your pictures from Facebook (and yes they belong to you NOT Facebook they are copyrighted to you) you have no say in how that photo will by used or abused. The photo above, by the way, is a Stock photo I paid for it is not my children.
Arn’t We All Just Being Paranoid?
This is not paranoia, paranoia is an imagined threat, this is already happening it is a REAL threat. This threat is no more paranoid than strapping your child into a car seat on the off chance you might have a car accident. Setting basic privacy settings or disallowing images of kids online, especially if under age is a deterrent. You can, even with some basic privacy settings enabled on Facebook at the very least, minimise the risk of your child’s image being misused.
Misused Photos Can End Up On Cruel Facebook Pages and Profiles
Purpose built Facebook accounts and fan pages for bullying are becoming more and more common, and some are actually allowed by Facebook like this game on Facebook called Smash or Pass that ranks profiles very crudely for sexual appeal. Some of the profiles on this particular Facebook Page, apparently have had photos uploaded without the victims consent, and yet Facebook have not taken it down despite complaints.
The latest Facebook Cyber Bullying fad doing “the rounds” is creating a Fake Facebook profile account of the victim and using pictures, usually downloaded from the victims real Facebook account, to humiliate and bully. Children as young as 8yrs are having this done to them. Or similarly Facebook “Fan” pages are being set up to harass and bully, again often using the victims existing un-protected photos taken from their own Facebook Accounts.
Nothing Is Really Private Online
If someone really wants to “get” to you or your child, it is very hard to stop them, very hard. And yes, I’ve had personal experience with this on different levels. There is so much information about all of us online these days, most you are unaware of. You can even pay an online service a small fee, or use some free search services to find out from an I.P Address, phone number or email, information about your victims family relations, their court appearances, where they live, exactly when they moved there…its all there. But Facebook is just making it easier to stalk, with birth dates, family relationships, emails, mobile phones, location services and check in and Location serviced enabled photos, often with the names of the people tagged on them, and the bullies and pedophiles know this too.
Set up ALL your privacy settings See How HERE!
If the owner of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg can’t even protect his private photos on Facebook (and yes he did want them to be private) Then what hope have the rest of us got.
If I Still Want To Share My Kids Photo’s What Should I do To Minimise Risk?
- Email photos
- Use a private www.flickr.com account
- Create a Private Facebook Group, and join family to it.
- Be sure you don’t post any pictures publicly. Choose “Friends Only” When posting.
- Be sure you ask that your photos are not to be shared.
- Watermark your photos
- Turn off Facial Recognition and Auto Tagging on Facebook (see my manual for instructions or my Advanced Privacy Settings Video).
- Don’t put names on photo descriptions, or tag photos with names, particularly if your surname is the same as your child’s.
- Check with children that they are ok with photos being uploaded.
- Be aware that in a few years time, some photo’s may embarrass your child.
- Turn off location services for photos when taking them on smart phones to prevent people from knowing exactly where they were taken, home etc…
- Remove your photos from Facebook every now and then
How to have a photo removed from Facebook
How to have a photo of your child removed Under 13yrs
Watermark your photos to prevent misuse
Report Abuse on Facebook
What has your experience been? do you know someone who has had their Facebook photo misused? I’d love to hear some examples of this.
Edit: To turn off Location Services on your iPhone, and to protect your location, see this new post: