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Facebook Photo Sync and Mobile Application Privacy Concerns

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December 5, 2012 in Technology


AUTHOR Joshua Wychopen

As social networks only continue to grow in popularity and size, the leading social network Facebook, has ventured onto thin ice with the latest release of their mobile application—leaving privacy advocates asking some really good questions. According to CNET News, over 56% (543 million) of Facebook’s users access the social network via their mobile application.

On Tuesday, we noticed the latest update to the Facebook mobile application was asking users to enable its new Photo Sync option. When Photo Sync is enabled, the application automatically uploads every image taken and stored on the mobile device to the social networking giants’ massive data servers. The images are uploaded to a private album for the user to later review. If a user decides to make certain images public, a quick click or tap will allow the image to be seen by their network of friends or completely public.

The real issues arises out of the fact that even if a user enables Photo Sync and decides to keep all their images safely sealed in their private album, those photos are still being uploaded to Facebook and stored on their servers. Once Facebook has the users images, not only will they have access to the geolocation data from the photo, but also access to whom they are with by using their state-of-the-art facial recognition software to easily identify users. As the database grows, more and more information is being assimilated into usable content and data-points that are only increasing in value.

Writing for The Point Daily, Alex Weber says that the release of the Photo Sync option, “…will enable Facebook to build up a massive database from the information users are automatically providing to the company such as where they have been, and with whom.”

In a recent article by Graham Cruley with Sophos Security he asked a very important question, “…if someone takes a photograph of you without your permission it will be automatically uploaded to Facebook – you may demand that they delete the photo off their phone, but will it also have been removed from their private Facebook album?”

Ewan Spence, a technology contributor for Forbes.com had this to say, “And while the synced folder in Facebook will be ‘private’ I find it hard to trust Facebook’s constantly evolving privacy settings to keep these images truly private.”

While some technology advocates and privacy experts are extremely concerned about this latest upgrade to Facebook mobile applications, others seem to care very little and candidly hint that their colleagues are making erroneous assumptions.

“I’m not so worried,” writes Larry Magid, a technology/internet safety advocate and contributor with Forbes.com, “…If you don’t want to share photos, then don’t use the Facebook app to take pictures. Why else would you take a picture within Facebook if you didn’t want to share it? And let’s give Facebook a bit of credit for not making the process completely automatic. You have to confirm that you really want to share the photo and even then, you get to decide on the audience. And I’m not losing sleep over whether Facebook is “stealing” our geolocation data or planning on using our photos for some nefarious purpose.”

There is clearly a dividing line between privacy expects as to if Facebook’s new upgrade to their mobile applications helps us or hurts us, I myself will not be enabling the feature. I value my privacy and for me, this goes a little to far to be enabled as an automatic feature. While I would love to not have my life tracked by anyone, I understand it is here to stay and for now a necessary evil. Understanding it and educating yourself as to what it’s doing and their capability is essential. By limiting what you put on social networks about yourself, you can dramatically reduce the digital data footprint.

Social Networks are a two way street, you’re willingly giving data about yourself, your life and what you do, but at the same time you can use social networks to educate others as to what’s going on in the world around them and how it affects their daily life. Here at FreedomBrief.com we utilize social networks to spread the message of liberty and freedom, taking platforms that collect data, which could potentially be used against us in the future, and using it against the very establishment who would. As Navy Seals often say, “One warrior, any weapon.”

The truth will set you free. Continue to seek the truth and educate yourself. Question the things said in this article and on this site, form your own opinions and be an individual. Think for yourself and question everything.

To read more or find out more about FreedomBrief visit us online at www.FreedomBrief.com

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