I was interviewed this morning on 2UE about this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, where a father found out that a photo he shared on Facebook of his child in the bath got over 3000 likes on Facebook, he was shocked, thinking he was only posting the photo to friends.
Now I don’t know how many friends he has, but I’m guessing it’s no where near 3000, it’s likely he posted the photo unaware that he hadn’t set the audience to “friends”, but may have selected the “public” or “friends of friends” setting.
I’ve previously outlined in a post on this blog about sharing photos of your kids online, and the risks associated, and not just the risks you would normally think of. Yes, sharing location data, full names and other personal details are concerning if someone decided to stalk your child, but it’s more likely that your child’s photo could end up with mean comments posted underneath it, or it could be shared on to other people you hadn’t intended to see it.
The SMH article also talks about children’s rights to their own images, which I agree with. When our children are older if they ask to have all their old photos taken down from social networks, a parent is going to have a very difficult time complying with that request, especially if they have shared those photos publicly, and if there are hundreds of photos to remove. Parents need to think very carefully about how many photos they upload to the internet and which ones they choose to share. Teenagers can be very sensitive about photos of themselves, especially ones that were taken and posted when they were “cute” and babyish.
Whilst some might say this all sounds like “Fear Mongering” its no more “Fear Mongering” than any other safety warning, seat belts, life preservers, helmets, looking both ways. All things to help us stay safe and be prepared. Hopefully you will never have to rely on them, but it’s smart to use them. Digital is new to a lot of folks and that’s why we haven’t yet got into the swing of setting up security and safety nets.
What Does Public Really Mean?
There is still a lot of misunderstanding of what posting publicly really means. It means posting an update or photo to anyone online really. Because there are no absolutely secure ways to ensure that any photo you post to another person or post to an online social network, or even send via SMS will not be shared with others or to the public in the wider sense of the word. Any photo can be copied and than passed on, or uploaded to another website and used for advertising for accompanying blog posts or used to embarrass or harass.
What About Privacy Settings?
Privacy settings vary greatly from application to application. Some are really basic and others incredibly complex. Many users are still quite uneducated about online privacy settings, and as a result, those social media users can be publishing photos that anyone who happens to come across their profile can see. On Facebook even if you set your post to “Friends” any of your friends can still download your photo, or even tag it with another persons name who is not in your friends list, unless you also have tagging disabled. Privacy settings certainly limit the ease with which a total stranger can see your content, but they are not fail safe. At the very least make sure your private information and privacy settings are set up properly. Here’s a link to my Advanced Facebook Privacy settings post with step by step video.
Why Bother With Privacy? Isn’t It A Waste Of Time?
There’s the other side of this story also. There are many parents who share everything publicly thinking that there is no danger that their photos or posts would be used incorrectly, they have decided that the risk is very low. The risk might be low, but there is still a risk. There have been a few high profile publicised cases recently where parents have found out that their child’s photos had been downloaded or copied by someone and was then uploaded to other websites and used in ways that were not intended. Role playing with photos of babies is a “Thing” on Instagram, and there’s even a movement to try and stop it. Put #babyrp (baby role play) in the Instagram search engine. Also see Here: and Here
In order for your photos to stay safe online, you also need to make sure that you never get targeted by someone who wants to hurt you. I’ve been asked to help several families who have been traumatised because someone decided to use social media to attack them or a family member, using their photos to create fake accounts, or disfiguring their photos that are then used to humiliate and harass, they simply just crossed paths with the wrong person. Reversing the damage in some cases is impossible.
At a recent talk when I asked primary school kids how many of them had seen fake accounts with photos of the victim set up to bully another student about 80% of them raised their hands.
How To Share Photos Safely?
- Keep your friends list small and real
- Always set your posts to friends and not public
- Make sure you set your privacy settings to approve all tagging on your posts. Friends can still download and copy all your photos to share if they want to, but it’s at least another preventative measure. (See picture at the bottom of this post for settings.)
- Create a secret group or restricted list on the social media platform you use, and set some rules about not sharing.
- Use one of the many private family photo sharing websites that are out there.
- Use a drop box type sharing cloud based system with a good reputation.
- Use email
- Delete your photos regularly
Remember that as soon as another person comments on your photo, it could change how other people perceive your photo. A comment can make the difference between a photo being innocuous and innocent to a photo that becomes shared because of what is said about it. You cannot control what other people do to your photos and posts.