Location & Privacy: Why Flickr’s New Feature May Change Photo Sharing

The mobile photo sharing boom brings with it a host of new privacy concerns — it’s easier than ever to inadvertently share your location with each photo you post to the web.

Does the era of the always-on location-aware device demand a new genre of privacy settings? More robust geo-privacy settings, perhaps?

That’s the motivation behind Flickr geofences, a newly added precautionary and practical feature that allows users to map out zones and set distinct location sharing settings for those areas.

Here’s why it matters: Fluffy the cat is being extra cute today. You snap a photo of Fluffy with your smartphone and share it on the web. The photo of Fluffy, depending on your default settings, could carry with it metadata that exposes your home address. Now you have a potential privacy kerfuffle on your hands.

Should you opt to set up a geofence on Flickr with a 250-meter radius surrounding your home, however, you could specify that only a certain group of people — family members, for instance — would be able to see the whereabouts of those cute cat photos you post today, tomorrow or at any other time in the future (and even the ones you posted in the past).

But, as Flickr frontend engineer Trevor Hartsell explains in an interview with Mashable, geofences “are an entirely new concept for most Flickr users,” as most don’t realize that “where a photo is taken could have a secondary effect.”

The end game for Flickr is less about encouraging users to be more private, and instead more about empowering them to show the location of their photos on their own terms. “Our goal is to help people make locations visible to the people they want them to be visible to,” Hartsell says.

Flickr, as the first large online photo site to employ geofences for location privacy, is merely adapting to the way of the world, as Hartsell sees it. “Location services have been niche for power users,” he says, “but we’ve gotten to the point where location services are now the standard.”

Hartsell even says that he hopes Flickr’s geo-privacy features will be replicated by other photo sharing services, including Facebook.

With smartphones now in the hands of 40% of mobile consumers over the age of 18 in the U.S., according to new Nielsen data, the volume of photos posted to the web with location data attached makes a strong case for exactly that.

Get the full story on Mashable

Read another article about Flickr’s Geofences Platform

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Posted on September 6, 2011, in Hospitality Digital Marketing Services and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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