Social Networking and Photo Safety

One of the many features of social networking sites is that now you can quickly and easily share new information and photos with a huge number of your friends and family, all at the same time – and without spending anything more than time to do it. Some sites even allow users to create links that are sendable to friends and family who haven’t made the social networking leap. This is a great tool, but some users are experiencing issues when their photos fall into the wrong hands.

Sometimes things end up photoshopped to embarrassing proportions, and sometimes pictures simply become the assumed property of whomever decides to take them. Unless you’re a professional photographer (in which case you should be heavily using some form of watermarking your photos), any photo placed in a public forum becomes public property, and there’s nothing you can legally do about it being ‘stolen,’ UNLESS the person used your image to make money. In that case you would either need to be IN the photo or able to prove you took it.

The only surefire guarantee that your photos can’t be stolen online and reused is to not put them online at all in the first place. Of course, that defeats the idea of easily sharing them with people, so there are a few things you can do to help safeguard your pictures. First, if there’s someone on your friends list that you don’t want to access your pictures – you can either put privacy on the photo albums preventing the people from seeing them, or delete them from your friends list. After all, why are they your friend if you don’t trust them with your pictures?

If the pictures are going in a more public forum or you want people to see them but not take them, you can size them down to the point where the photo is viewable, but its’ integrity would be completely lost if someone took it and tried to resize it to being printable. (Definitely keep the originals someplace safe if you do this!)

Finally, if it’s your website or you have the ability to do a little HTML on the page, you can block users from right clicking and copying the picture using this technology. There’s nothing you can do however about someone pushing ‘print screen,’ no matter how much HTML you know, and many of the larger social networking sites don’t allow HTML content to be added.

Once someone takes your picture, if they deface it, the damage may be done. You could ask them to return it or take it down, but you can’t force them to. If they only took the picture because it was good and they wanted a copy, be flattered – someone liked your work enough to want a copy! But, it might be worth mentioning that you’d appreciate if they could ask ahead of time in the future.

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