Oh, Snap! Your Pictures, Social Media, and Privacy

Micro Visions Social Media PrivacyAfter being strong-armed into getting a Snapchat recently (peer pressure is a pain), I got to wondering if social media privacy settings work. Or, for that matter, if social media can actually be private. As it turns out, they can’t.

  • In 2013, some guy proved that Snapchat doesn’t actually erase expired images or videos. Fortunately, he had jailbroken his iPhone and Snapchat has since fixed a few security holes since then, so retrieval is more difficult these days. Decipher Forensics can go after old snaps (for a price) though, so it’s not impossible. On the plus side, as of July 2016, Snapchat was dabbling in improving privacy with facial recognition.
  • Facebook, as some of you may know, began as thefacebook.com, a directory for Harvard students. It has since grown to a global information sharing hub, and it has a few privacy quibbles. Facebook says its users own and control their own information (but their privacy policy allows them to preserve and share that information, so there might be some sneaky language bouncing around). Mark Zuckerberg’s theory is that people want control, not privacy (he might have a point since Facebook users are notorious for posting pictures of what they had for lunch).
  • Twitter could have become very creepy after its MoPub acquisition, but thus far it has had fewer snafus than Facebook or Snapchat. It helps that the Twitter powers that be have a fondness for shutting down privacy and use policy violators. Of course, Twitter is technically public, which naturally eliminates privacy.
  • Instagram, holy grail of photo sharing, didn’t give me much to work with. They’re too busy sorting out Lindsay Lohan and Taylor Swift messes (from this I assume privacy isn’t too big over there).

Bottom line: Only posting what you’d be okay with your mother seeing isn’t going to cut it anymore. Just about anybody can see your laundry, so keep things clean.