German researchers have developed tagging software which embeds images with an expiration date, allowing the images set to be published online to 'disappear' at a set date.
Social networks do not delete images or video content once it has been uploaded. The EU hopes to draw up legislation affecting the entire web, even outside of the European zone, by giving all web users the right to delete data that is no longer pertinent.
While already uploaded images are stored on servers belonging to each social network, these images cannot be modified once the file is uploaded.
The BBC explains how the technology works:
To help solve this problem, the X-Pire software creates encrypted copies of images and asks those uploading them to give each one an expiration date.
Viewing these images requires the free X-Pire browser add-on. Currently only a version that works with Firefox is available. Those without the viewer will be unable to see any protected image.
When the viewer encounters an encrypted image it sends off a request for a key to unlock it. This key will only be sent, and the image become viewable, if the expiration date has not been passed.
Images with an implanted expiration date have been uploaded successfully to Flickr and Facebook, according to the developer of X-Pire.
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As different sites and services deal with photo uploading differently, it was important to test how these services treat the image files and whether the encrypted expiration date remains post-upload.
While the service is not free, the application costs only 2 euros. Uploaded images will always remain encrypted and become inaccessible to viewing on the set date, even if the initial tagger stops paying for the product.
Though the software will allow images to expire and become inaccessible over time, it still serves as a lesson to younger, more naive users of the Web that once something is uploaded, it can never be taken back.
Will this help protect users' privacy, or should governments allow the right to destroy our own data? Have your say.