News Column

Facebook Won't Automatically Post Private Photos

Dec 5, 2012

Brandon Bailey

Facebook

Responding to concerns about its new Photo Sync feature for smartphone users, Facebook said Tuesday that it won't use data from pictures that are automatically uploaded to users' private albums on the social network, unless the user shares them.

Facebook recently began offering an optional service that will automatically upload photos from a user's iPhone or Android smartphone, while promising to store them in a digital album that keeps the photos private until the user decides to post them on a Facebook page or share them with friends.

Some analysts raised the possibility this week that Facebook might analyze private photos for digital clues about where they were taken or even the identities of people in the photos, perhaps applying that information in the same way it relies on other user data to determine which ads and other messages are shown to different users.

A Facebook representative appeared to dispute that on Tuesday, saying in a statement: "We only utilize photo data after users decide to share them to Facebook." In response to a follow-up question, the representative said that means the company won't use data from uploaded photos in the user's private album, although the company would apply its normal policies if the user opts to share the photos on Facebook.

In its privacy policy, Facebook lists several possible uses for data it obtains from photos and other

sources, saying for example that it may use geo-location codes in photos to deliver messages about people or businesses nearby. It may also suggest that a user "tag" photos with names of friends that its software recognizes, although users can turn off the recognition feature.

Facebook has described Photo Sync as a convenient way for smartphone users to upload pictures as soon as they are taken, while allowing users to review them later for possible sharing. Facebook, which draws most of its revenue from advertising, wants to encourage users to share more of their lives with others on the social network.

Google (GOOG) offers a similar "Instant Upload" feature for its Google+ social network. A spokeswoman said Google does not use any photo information to target its advertising. Google+ offers facial recognition for users who opt to allow it.

Bloggers and security experts have praised some aspects of the Photo Sync feature, while cautioning that it could still give Facebook access to more data if it leads to users sharing more photos, and that it might also increase the chances for sharing photos inadvertently.



Source: (c)2012 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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