Take a Breath Before You Upload That!
WebWatch Publishes Guide on Social Media Privacy, Photos and Video
YONKERS, N.Y., Feb. 19, 2009 – If you use social media and networking Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace, you may not unaware of important personal privacy concerns until something embarrassing happens. Consumer Reports WebWatch has published a guide to help you avoid that, while navigating our increasingly complicated digital lives, called “Photos on the Web: A Consumers Guide”.
Written by WebWatch adviser Fred Ritchin, director of PixelPress and professor of photography and imaging at New York University, the report covers topics such as fake photos and the implications of “photoshopping,” copyright concerns, urban legends and more.
Ritchin just published his second book, After Photography, and you can join an ongoing blog discussion about these issues at that site, and also at WebWatch’s blog, The Unsponsored Link.
The report is part of WebWatch’s “Look Before You Click” campaign supported by a CyberAwareness Grant from the New York State Office of the Attorney General and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. It includes the following digital literacy tips:
• As anyone who has tried to take a family picture with young children and pets knows, the “perfect” photographic moment is hard to achieve. The well-worn consumer caution, “if it looks too good to be true, it is,” can be applied to photos and video on the Internet as well.
• As anyone who has purchased school pictures knows, you can pay a few extra bucks to have your child’s photos “retouched” to remove blemishes, chocolate smears in the corner of the mouth and other anomalies. On the Web, context is critical. “Before-and-after” images demonstrating weight loss, the miracles of skin creams, and attractive potential mates just waiting to talk to you should be treated with skepticism.
• Technically, it’s easier to alter a single image than hundreds of them, as would appear in frames in video. However, digital video editing software can raise similar manipulation concerns.
• Manipulated or not, when placing images of yourself or your family online on community, social networking or video sites such as Flickr, Facebook and YouTube, consider the ramifications carefully. Photos and video that enter the digital domain, usually remain. They may follow you for a long time, and they may present a picture to a future employer, or spouse or partner you might regret.
• You may decide to play around with software such as Photoshop. Consider your responsibility as a Web publisher and tell people on your Web site, blog or photo file if you drastically alter the composition of a photo in order to make a point.
“Putting a photo or video online can be kind of like letting a genie out of a bottle, or a horse out of the barn – you can’t easily remove a photo or video from the Internet once it’s there,” said Beau Brendler, WebWatch’s director. “Take some time to self-edit, and don’t put personal information like your name, address, phone number or e-mail address up with videos and photos.” WebWatch has also published a fact sheet for staying safe on social networking sites, which you can find here.
About Consumer Reports WebWatch
Consumer Reports WebWatch is the Internet integrity division of Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports Magazine, the Consumer Reports on Health and Money Adviser newsletters, and a variety of sites advocating consumer rights in the marketplace. We research and investigate Web sites on behalf of consumers, and we advocate for consumer-focused Internet policy and governance. Consumer Reports WebWatch accepts no advertising. Consumer Reports WebWatch is a member of the Internet Society, a grassroots group focused on Internet policy; and is an atlarge structure (ALS) in the user community of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigning Names and Numbers. WebWatch also serves as an unpaid special adviser to StopBadware.org, a "Neighborhood Watch" initiative led by Harvard University's Berkman Center and the Oxford Internet Institute devoted to helping Internet users avoid downloading malicious spyware, adware and malware programs. With the Center for Media and Democracy, WebWatch publishes Full Frontal Scrutiny, dedicated to exposing the activities of front groups in modern media and culture.