A picture is worth a thousand words. But to which “words” does this statement refer?

The information on the Internet is mostly relayed in different forms of text:  news stories, blogs, forums, scanned books, and other reference tools. However, other forms of media are becoming more popular because of their user-friendliness and their ability to relay more information more quickly. A large branch of social media uses text, but the supplemental and perhaps better type of information is included in audio files, video recordings, and photos.

photo-sharing platformBut along with this plethora of pictures comes less privacy as well—are you willing to risk it? Each time you post a video or photo of yourself online, you are allowing others to access a part of your personal life. However, this does not cross many people’s minds every time they engage in their social media experience.

Recent news stories report that more than 750 million photos were uploaded to Facebook just over this past New Year’s weekend. And Facebook is not the only photo-sharing service on the web; Flickr, Picasa, PhotoBucket, and ImageShack are several other highly popular photo-sharing platforms.

Getting back to our principal question, do photos come with words attached? The answer is yes. Take Facebook, for example. Every time a photo is uploaded to this social media giant’s database, the owner can then set several alleged “terms of use” for the photo that then dictates its viewability. Did they post it to someone’s wall? Can friends-of-friends view this photo? Did they tag you?  There are too many details to keep track of in order to stay protected.

Another recent photographic fiasco is that of Apple’s privacy infringement when it comes to taking photos. Several weeks ago, Apple came underphoto-sharing service fire after a discovery that their products have supposedly been tracking customers’ locations for about a year. When iPhone or iPad users take a picture, some of the “words” contained in the photo’s properties contain both the latitude and longitude of where the photo was taken (to about 8 decimal places) as well as the time the site was visited.

Apple is being sued by several customers for “computer fraud” and an “invasion of privacy.” Those affected claim that this source of data collection is illegal, and that they would not have purchased Apple products had they known about the tracking feature.

Because of experience, we can safely assume that not all photographic ventures are safe. Those taking or viewing pictures need to be careful of what “words” may be attached to the photo itself.  It is quite possible that a picture could be worth more than a thousand words.

Jamie Bates