Photos unsafe on Facebook, again

J. Rae Chipera

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Facebook stalkers can now be more efficient, as a new app takes advantage of users who don’t constantly police their privacy settings. Is the existence of one app evidence of others?

Photos At My Door,” developed by private individuals who do not work for Facebook Inc., allows users to print a photo onto coffee mugs and other merchandise. Facebook’s constant changes to design open the door, allowing it to happen because of automatic changes to users’ privacy settings.

Users must constantly patrol (and get lost in the maze of) their privacy settings. With the new design, Facebook appears to be defaulting its users’ privacy settings to “share with apps others use” —- even if the box was unchecked previously.

The app asks users to log in with their Facebook account in order to access their photos, as well as those of their friends so that prints can be ordered.

In other words, the app not only allows photos to be available to the friends and family of the poster, but to also be downloaded by all the creepy Facebook stalkers and creepy friends from high school, unbeknownst to the people in the photo.

Recent events prove that this is not the first occurrence of Facebook allowing the non-consensual use of its users’ photos. Last time, Facebook back-pedaled itself out of the situation.

On Dec. 18, DailyMail reported that Facebook planned to sell its user’s photos, claiming it had rights to all the Instagram photos posted.

On Dec. 19, Yahoo News reported that Facebook’s co-founder denied that claim, stating that it was not their intention to sell users’ photos.

On Facebook’s new help page, it states, “You have control over how your information is shared. We don’t share your personal information with people or services you don’t want. We don’t give advertisers access to your personal information. We don’t sell any of your information to anyone and we never will.

“None of your information —- your name, basic info, what you like, who your friends are, what they have liked, what they recommend —- is shared with external sites you visit with a plugin. Because they have given Facebook this space on their sites, they don’t receive or interact with the information that is contained or transmitted there. Similarly, no personal information about your actions is provided to advertisers on Facebook or on the other site.”

However, actions speak louder than words.

A very prominent Facebook user, who asked not to be identified because of his status as a verified name, posed the question semi-privately: “Why is Facebook selling our photos, but saying they’re not?”

A former Facebook employee, who also asked to remain anonymous, commented: “It wasn’t Facebook who is selling your photos.”

As the prominent Facebook user pointed out, that’s like agreeing to watch someone else’s house while they are away (the house being equivalent to someone’s personal identifying information and intellectual property). And then, when the robbers come and take everything, the negligent house-sitter says, “Well, I sat on the couch and watched them take your television; but it wasn’t me who took it, so don’t get mad.”

Instead of fighting with its users for ownership rights of photographs and personal information, Facebook would be wise to consider other avenues to generate revenue. Without users, a social media network is nothing, and people eventually stop using services they deem unsafe.

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