Expiring web images: Future-proofing naive web users

Expiring web images: Future-proofing naive web users

Summary: A new application will allow images uploaded to social networks to 'expire' and become inaccessible, future-proofing younger, more naive users from image retrobution.

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TOPICS: Browser
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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.

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.

Topic: Browser

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12 comments
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  • Question about this software

    Will it prevent viewers from taking a screen shot or using a screen capture tool to create a copy of the image? If it doesn't, this tool is only slightly more than useless at preventing pictures from "escaping" uncontrolled onto the Internet.

    Even if it does prevent screen shots, I have a hard time seeing the use case for this. If I have pictures that I want to share with family and friends, I want them to be able to see those pictures today, tomorrow, next year, 5 years from now, etc. If I have pictures that I don't want to share with anyone, I don't post those online. I can't think of any pictures where I want to share them but only for a limited amount of time.

    Forgive me for being naive but I don't see what problem this solves. What would be more interesting to me is perhaps a system where I could designate, outside of sites like Facebook, who is allowed to see my pictures. That way, if my privacy settings change in Facebook and a link "escapes", at least the picture behind the link won't be visible to anyone I haven't given permission to.
    NonZealot
    • RE: Expiring web images: Future-proofing naive web users

      @NonZealot I read somewhere else that copies you might make do not expire. Not for sure, and don't remember where I saw this.
      Bill4
    • Expiry and removal

      @NonZealot <br><br>I am in the process of scanning my high school yearbook (1968) as well as several others and I want to make them permanently accessible. (Companies like Classmates.com and Ancestry.com require you to <b><i>give</i></b> them the book, which they then cut up for easy digital scanning and don't return.) I have already scanned all 224 pages and will probably put them on one of the photo upload sites. Since I'm interested in genealogy, my main goal is long term availability to my classmates' descendants, etc.<br><br>Realistically, the various sites can't leave up the content <b><i>forever</i></b>. Is FB's successor, etc., REALLY going to keep the content available 200 years from now? At some point the various sites will institute a policy that if the material has not been accessed (other than by spiders) for more than a certain time it will come down.<br><br>There is a corollary to that. There are certain sites where if you upload a text image it automatically gets OCR'd and made available as a PDF. Most likely, at some future date most of these social networking sites will automatically add the expiration program to all images uploaded (except probably for the main Member Photo).
      Rick_R
      • RE: Expiring web images: Future-proofing naive web users

        @Rick_R

        You're kidding right? FB's storage is massive and likely costs less than $.0001/MB. It probably costs more to delete your pics than to just leave them there. The cost of taking up space relative to the cost of taking someone's time to delete it will also probably only go down.
        tkejlboom
  • Talk about a safe haven for CHILD PORN!

    I can just see the FBI trying to get evidence after it has "expired" from a company outside the U.S.!
    kd5auq
    • RE: Expiring web images: Future-proofing naive web users

      @kd5auq Talk about FEAR MONGERING! This has more to do with combating companies like Facebook who hate your privacy.
      Wodenhelm
  • Who Owns The Rights?

    I suspect that this will turn into quite a huge can of worms before its over. A fascinating topic. A few points.

    WHO OWNS THE IMAGES: As a photographer, it has long been a hot topic ... who owns the images we create with models. The photographer has rights ... the model has rights. What those rights are should be clearly spelled out in advance, in writing. Sometimes I own them, sometimes the model owns them, some times we share them ... and sometimes neither of us own the rights, as the shots were created for a third party who stipulated that THEY will hold all rights. It's sticky and the details really need to be pinned down up front.

    I suspect that when we upload images, some websites have included in those terms we blindly agree to, that copies of images uploaded to their site become their property.

    I'm not sure if that would stand up in court or not. Can the post office claim that images sent through the mail belong to them? I don't think so. Can a bank claim that images held in a safe deposit box become theirs? I don't think so.

    So why can an internet service claim that they own the images just because we chose to save them on their servers? This would seem to set a very dangerous precedent. Do cloud computing providers own the data of the companies they host?

    EXPIRATION DATE: As a photographer working mostly with younger female models and actresses on their portfolio images, I know that while they ALL want their images to be widely accessible when they're young and looking for work, whether or not they want those images floating around the web FOREVER is not no universally evident. A small percentage don't seem to mind how long their images float around, but MOST want those images to completely disappear once they get married or have kids or just get to the end of their modeling careers. I warn them that this may not be easy to do, if even possible, depending on where they upload their images.

    If this technology actually works as advertised, certainly those of my clients with concerns about who sees their images AFTER they end their modeling careers would find this very interesting.
    Trep Ford
  • Enforcement and Logistics

    I have difficulty in believing that expiration dates (on any piece of data on the Internet) can be enforced in the current computing environment. Assuming for the moment that every host in the world (both public and private) will agree to this policy (regardless of software) -- which is not likely -- data expiration still has one fundamental requirement:<br><br>No local data storage. Or rather, browsing must be possible (and enforced) without downloading anything locally.<br><br>To me, this sounds like this is only possible in a cloud-only environment, where -everyone- (in the world) is running thin clients, with absolutely no user exposure to underlying software or file system, and getting everything else from the cloud. (That is, data CRUD occurs exclusively within the cloud, and no one truly owns any data. No one except the cloud host, that is.)<br><br>While this is possible, it would take a long time and would require a fundamental change in the architecture of the Internet that would, in turn, force all Internet users to change to cloud-based browsing and networking.<br><br>Until end users are forced into that kind of walled garden, there is no way this policy can be enforced.
    MKIceman
  • BS

    just a way to add plugins and make money on useless services.
    Linux Geek
  • really

    just a thought but this does not say the images are deleted,, just that they are not viewable,,might be just semantics or,,,,
    twisted4evr
    • Deletion vs. Encryption

      @twisted4evr<br><br>Correct, the article states that the software would encrypt data, and browsers receive the key based upon time/date.<br><br>However, the first rule of cryptology is that for every lock, there is at least one key, and that key can be replicated. (Although some may argue that this is the second rule of cryptology, and the first rule is to assume that all data are intercepted.)<br><br>In other words, encryption is meaningless or, at the very least, merely a temporary obstacle when it comes to safeguarding privacy or private information. The only 'real' method for safeguarding privacy is controlling ownership, which means ability to delete all copies everywhere. Which is impossible in today's computing environment.
      MKIceman
  • RE: Expiring web images: Future-proofing naive web users

    So when someone finds a way around the technology do the wise ones in government who are giving people a false sense of security start locking people up?
    dend