July is a prime vacation month, and a perfect time to take and share digital photos online.
Social networking websites and online photo-sharing applications allow us to quickly and easily share our photos globally. This raises questions about the security and privacy of our digital photos. How can we be assured that the photos we want to share are seen only by the people with whom we want to share them?
Before sharing a photo online in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other forms of social media, first determine the audience with whom you are sharing the photo(s).
1. Will anything in the photo expose you or others to a security risk? For example, does the photo identify where you work or live by showing your address or street sign?
2. Due to facial recognition technology, e.g. in Facebook, would anyone in the photo object to an unflattering or embarrassing photo being posted and/or being tagged?
3. Is the photo-sharing privacy locked down so that strangers and identity thieves will not have access to the photo?
Photo Privacy in Facebook
Before posting a photo in Facebook, first review the Privacy Settings Shortcut Menu shown below. Note that the default setting for Who can see my future posts? is Public. For the greatest security for future posts, change this setting to Friends or a Custom List Setting.
When posting a photo or starting a photo album in Facebook, be sure to select the privacy setting that is best for you and the people in the photo. Setting up a custom list containing the names of the people whom you trust in advance of photo-sharing is a good idea.
Although some people enjoy tagging and being tagged in photos, the best practice is not to tag someone in a shared photo unless the other person has given their permission. It is never a good idea to fully identify children under the age of 18 with their first and last names. When in doubt, request the permission of their parents before posting photos of children.
In Facebook, be sure to check your privacy settings to maintain control over others tagging you in photos.
For the greatest personal privacy, click on Edit and Enable Review at Review tags people add to your own posts before the tags appear on Facebook? ; click on Edit and select Only Me at When you’re tagged in a post, who do you want to add to the audience if they aren’t already in it?; click on Edit and select No One at Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded?
Whether viewing Facebook photos on a computer or on a portable device, photos are easily saved. Remember that if you can easily save photos that are shared on Facebook, others can save your photos too. That’s why it is important to carefully limit the audience for your shared photos.
Additional Privacy Concerns in Facebook
One additional concern with photo-sharing in Facebook is that although you may limit the audience for the photos you share, any of the people with whom you share a photo can directly share the photo with others on their own timeline, on a friend’s timeline, in a group, on a page, or in a private message–regardless of how tight your privacy settings.
Facebook and other forms of social media may allow you to control the audience of the photos that you post, but there is no guarantee that the photos you share will be restricted to just those people.