Facebook. The land of procrastination, reconnection, judgement, popularity, and interests. It is also home to many friends from high school, public school, home towns, universities, across the sea, and to many more non friends – creepers, stalkers, frenemies, trollers, hackers, fake accounts, police, and future employers. Also living amongst these, your embarrassing pictures from that one drunken night where a “friend” would not put a camera away, and without hesitation, uploaded the results for the world to laugh, and for you to remember what you had blacked out. How lovely.
Let’s face it, everyone has pictures of them on Facebook that they are not too proud of. People may untag themselves, report the photo, or ask their friend to delete the embarrassing moment in time. But is it really even gone once deleted?
For a while, Facebook photos took upwards of 3 years to finally deleted off their content delivery networks (CDNs), but since last Febuary, that has changed to 30 days, or 2592000 seconds. Still a long time for something to be around that you would rather have deleted. But fear not, Facebook spokesperson Frederic Wolens says that
“As you know, the photos stop being shown to other users on Facebook immediately
when the photo is first deleted by the user. The 30-day window only applies to the cached images on the CDN” (Arstechnica) It seems as if Facebook is changing their deletion policy, which should please users. But this is not the only facet of privacy of photos that users should be cautious about.
One of the many functions of Facebook is the ability to share. Like “retweeting” from twitter, sharing on Facebook allows you to share a picture, link, comment or post of your own or your friends, to all the people on your friends list. The friends that see this shared item, can then share it amongst their Facebook friends, who can then share it among their friends, and so on. If a friend decides to share a picture of you, there is little you can do once it is seen by other people to stop the potential wildfire.
One man, a John Mueller, uploaded a picture to Flikr that he photoshopped to make it look like he threw his son high up in the air .4 years later, one of his friends shared a photo onFacebook, which happened to be a photoshopped version of John’s photoshopped version of his photo, much to his surprise. I had seen both of these pictures in the past year on sites like reddit and 9gag, which share links and pictures. John tried to get Facebook todelete the picture, but he was met with an answer that told him to contact all of the other sites that this picture was going through. This photoshopped photoshopped picture is a seemingly harmless tale, but offers insight into some problems on the internet.
John never tried to see this picture, it was just something making the rounds. With enough shares, a picture on Facebook can play the 6 degrees of separation game, and find its way into too many peoples screens. It also shows how little control over what you upload. Considering that each week, 3.5 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook (digitalbuzzblog), there is a lot of opportunity for pictures to be seen by others, stolen, photoshopped, or saved by others. Add to that the fact that 41% of Facebook users share photos and videos that were taken by others (Source: Marketing Land). This is especially worrisome for photographers and artists who upload their work onto Facebook. Their art could be shared by a friend, stolen by a stranger, and sold as an “original piece”. The embarrassing photos that you tried to hide could end up as a popular internet meme, increasing the exposure and humiliation. Or a controversial photo could make you a scapegoat, seen and judged by everyone.
There are many privacy settings on Facebook that allows you to control your profile, but there are no setting to control someone else’s. Perhaps this may change your opinion of what is really appropriate to post on the site, considering the potentiality of millions of people viewing your photo, link, comment etc, perhaps not. But just keep this in mind, is Facebook sharing caring?