New privacy, shmivacy - Facebook photo tagging still a big fail

New privacy, shmivacy - Facebook photo tagging still a big fail

Summary: In light of recent changes to privacy settings and networks, Facebook is still overlooking one of the biggest issue areas: photo tagging

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Just yesterday Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted an open letter to all of the site's 350 million users explaining that regional networks would be disbanded for the sake of its users privacy (i.e. Silicon Valley, Nassau County, London, etc.). Zuckerberg also announced that users would soon be granted an easier user interface for privacy controls, and more targeted privacy controls for that matter.

This is all well and good, and progress made on Facebook's privacy discussions earlier this year, however the company still hasn't found a solution to protect user privacy in one area: pictures. I'm not talking about the pictures that we upload ourselves and then set appropriate privacy settings, I'm talking about the photos tagged by other people. Or worse, the photos uploaded and not tagged.

Everyone on the Web has been well-warned: don't do anything that you wouldn't want photographed and placed online. But one can never completely avoid being photographed at a wedding or party or other type of function, even if he or she is innocently eating a sandwich or talking to pals. And although a person might be thrilled to have photos taken by friends or family for the sake of making memories, they may still not want these pictures of themselves, or even their children, uploaded to social networks.

Yet users have absolutely no control over what photos are uploaded. If they are tagged, they may not have an immediate opportunity to log in and click 'remove tag' or may be unaware that the function to do so exists.

Doesn't this seem like something that Facebook should easily be able to fix?

A simple solution would be an email notification that goes to the tagged user before the photo is published, allowing them to either remove the tag or request that the photo not be posted.

The downside of that, of course, is that it would take control of the upload away from the uploading user, thereby depleting instant gratification for photo uploaders all over. That begs the question, what is more important: privacy or user control?

In terms of photos not tagged, Facebook itself hasn't yet come up with any cool facial recognition, though it should. An app from Face.com, Photo Tagger is extending Facebook privacy control to photo sharing with a new feature called Face Alerts. Face.com utilizes facial recognition technology to automatically and continuously scan newly uploaded photos within a user’s social network. Users are then alerted via Facebook notification, email or both when their face is found in a photo, even if it is not tagged. This is a cool application but it's third-party and not innate for the Facebook user. I'd hope Facebook would come up with something similar to offer directly to its users.

Again, I commend Facebook on making some progress in terms of better protecting user privacy, but the photo issue seems to be a big glaring error.

What should Facebook do to fix this?

Note: For a very entertaining translation of Zuckerberg's letter, check out Caroline McCarthy's post.

Topics: Legal, Social Enterprise

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30 comments
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  • This silly article is a big fail

    [i]Yet users have absolutely no control over what photos are uploaded. If
    they are tagged, they may not have an immediate opportunity to log in
    and click ?remove tag? or may be unaware that the function to do so
    exists.[/i]

    If you are tagged in facebook It sends an immediate message to you that
    "so-and-so has tagged you in a photo." Clicking on the photo reveals a
    second button to "untag yourself." This is as simple as it gets.
    Tigertank
    • Right

      I said that in the article. That's not the point. But thanks. ;-)
      Jennifer Leggio
      • RE: New privacy, shmivacy - Facebook photo tagging still a big fail

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    • Not a complete fail

      I know people who only log into Facebook once every few weeks. They have email notifications turned off, and don't view all their notifications upon every login. These people don't know what photos in which they've been tagged until they start looking through their own Photos section. How do you protect users from themselves in a case like that?
      MariusSilverwolf
      • Good point

        I didn't even think about those who had notifications turned off.
        Jennifer Leggio
      • As far as I'm concerned, Facebook has done it's part.

        This entire discussion is ridiculous. If some camera-shy, obsessive-
        compulsive is terrified that they may be tagged in a friends photograph,
        then they should have email alerts turned on. Period. Facebook gives
        you a way to remove tags but it is not going to hold your hand through
        life. Either tell ALL your friends not to post photos of you or have your
        settings set to alert you. It also wouldn't hurt to not be so self conscious
        about some friend's silly photographs. I get tagged with stupid photos
        all the time. And if one makes me look silly, then I laugh at it and
        remove it if I don't want it on my page.
        Tigertank
        • Yes, but...

          ...you don't speak for everyone. There are some people who do care about it. Or they do care if their photos are up somewhere even MORE SO if their networks can't see it. The purpose of this is to start the discussion for those who DO care. I personally don't. If you don't care either, well, then you don't need to read this anymore and find something that's more fitting to your concerns elsewhere.
          Jennifer Leggio
          • I speak for myself. Never claimed more.

            It does concern me however if we are talking about having FB change it's
            upload policies to suit the minority of people who are afraid to see a
            photo of themselves online. What could possibly be the solution to this?
            If your not tagged in a photograph then there is no way that Facebook
            could ever let you know that a photo of you has been uploaded. So FB
            either no longer allows anyone uploading photos of people (which is
            probably just fine with some shrinking violets out there.) or else people
            learn to accept that is what Facebook is. Without photo-tagging, FB is
            really just a glorified Twitter with farm animals.
            Tigertank
        • Not a member

          I am not a member of Facebook and I have no interest in becoming one. I do not want my face or data on the internet.

          How do I stop this if I am not even a part of Facebook?
          lefty.crupps
          • Don't want face or data on the internet?

            In short, there is nothing you can do to keep your face or data off the internet. While this article refers to facebook, the problem applies to every site. Why is facebook being singled out? Anyone can upload pictures of you without your knowledge to *any* picture sharing site. Myspace, Webshots, etc. Anyone with their own website could put pictures and information up about you without your knowledge or consent.

            Why should facebook be required to do anything more than they already do?
            doc@...
    • That only works if you're on facebook!

      I don't want to be on facebook. I don't want my
      friends to tag photos of me with my name. I ask
      them not to. Every so often, someone tells me that
      "so and so has a picture of you on facebook tagged
      with your name". So far, everyone who I have asked
      has removed the tag, but there are probably more
      out there, and I have no way of knowing about it.
      lostarchitect
  • Oh, but you CAN block yourself from being seen...

    (From allfacebook.com/2009/02/facebook-privacy/) First visit your profile privacy page and modify the setting next to ?Photos Tagged of You?. Select the option which says ?Customize?? and a box like the one pictured below will pop up.

    Select the option ?Only Me? and then ?None of My Networks? if you would like to keep all tagged photos private. If you?d like to make tagged photos visible to certain users you can choose to add them in the box under the ?Some Friends? option. In the box that displays after you select ?Some Friends? you can type either individual friends or friend lists.
    cmg21228
    • Oh, good to know!

      I had no idea that could be done. Thanks for sharing that here. Now if only that worked for untagged photos. :)
      Jennifer Leggio
  • Isn't there a visibility setting for tagged photos?

    I have my privacy settings set so that tagged photos of me are only visible to my inner circle of friends.

    What more do you need?
    T1Oracle
    • What about those...

      ...that aren't tagged and your name is just in a caption?
      Jennifer Leggio
    • yes and no

      i think this is certainly the most commonly
      misunderstood part of facebook privacy. I would
      recommend you read the facebook help item named
      "Users are able to view tagged photos of me
      even though I have restricted access to them."
      where it clearly states "Restricting the
      privacy setting for 'Photos Tagged of You' only
      removes the link directly beneath your profile
      picture". Now, you thought it meant people
      couldn't see tags of you in your photos right?
      wrong. If a friend uploads a photo and tags
      you, there is NOTHING you can do to stop other
      people (and that could be the whole world)
      seeing that tag, until you login and remove the
      tag. Worse, if they tag the photo with your
      name, but not your profile. That's it, you
      can't do anything.
      whytek
  • And the secondary issue is . . .

    If one of my friends is tagged in an album by one of his friends, the event appears in my News Feed. I can click that photo and then start browsing the entire album of somebody with whom I am not friends. Security failure? Possible backdoor entry into a user's profile, when set to Private? I think so.
    MariusSilverwolf
    • Another good question

      I'm not sure how the intricacies of that work. I'll look into it.
      Jennifer Leggio
  • RE: New privacy, shmivacy - Facebook photo tagging still a big fail

    Go to Privacy, set tagged photos to be seen Only By You, respond to emails at your leisure to make them public.
    Facebook is a platform, not a social network: said Mark Zuckerberg. Part of being a platform is using 3rd parties apps.Where is the problem?

    Getting a bit tired of beat up jobs on so-called lack of privacy on Facebook.
    lpapworth@...
    • Again...

      ...the issue isn't just with tagged photos.
      Jennifer Leggio