Saving your photos online – whether it’s directly to the cloud, through social media or a photo app – has been hailed as a lifesaving solution. It means you no longer have to worry about losing or breaking your phone or spending money on an expensive hard drive. But convenience can come at a cost and it’s good to know the facts so you can weigh up the risks.
- As soon as you upload photos through an app, service or directly to the cloud, they are no longer directly in your control.
- If the service is free on the face of it, it’s likely your data and personal information is used in some way to make money.
- Apps can be set to upload all photos automatically. This can be useful, but it could also mean every snap you take on your phone is automatically appearing online.
- Not all cloud storage services look after your photos in the same way. Look into the reputation of any service you want to use, check they take your security seriously and read up on the measures they employ to protect your data.
- Social media is designed around sharing. Any photos you upload will exist online indefinitely and can be shared or used in ways you didn’t intend.
Photo security basics that you can control
If you’ve decided you’re happy to share photos online, you can still take steps to protect your family’s privacy and security. Although it’s become second nature to upload all of our snaps, there’s nothing to stop you picking and choosing what you share with everyone and what you keep just for your nearest and dearest. You could talk it over with your family and close friends and come up with some guidelines you’re all happy to follow. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- It may help to think of a real-world equivalent when deciding which photos to share. Would you be happy sticking a copy of that photo in the window of the local store? Or putting it on a billboard above a busy road? Depending on your privacy settings, posting pics on some apps could reach a very wide audience, so use this as a reality check before uploading.
- Double-check there’s nothing in the background of your photos that gives away private information about you and your family e.g. street name, location, house number, car licence plate.
- Don’t take pictures at easily recognised spots where you go regularly with your kids such as schools, day-care, sports clubs or swimming pools.
- Don’t share snaps that show your kids in identifiable school, sports or activity club uniforms.
- Check your privacy settings. Don’t upload pictures to everyone if you don’t want the world to see and potentially re-upload or disseminate them.
- Think of the consequences every time you post. When you share on social media, you must be willing for that photo to be seen by anyone indefinitely, so avoid uploading images that could be compromising or potentially risky in the future – for you or your kids.
- Decide when to have the conversation with your children about putting images of them online. They will reach a certain age when they’ll be old enough to want a say in that part of their identity. It’s also a good opportunity to make sure they understand how to stay safe online if they’re posting their own stuff. Our guide to internet privacy and safety for kids has some top tips.
Key security issues for popular apps
There’s been plenty in the media about what exactly you’re signing up to when you use social media and cloud storage apps. Here’s a brief run through of the key security considerations and what you can do to protect yourself.
- Every time you post a photo or video on Facebook, you can choose the privacy settings to determine who can see it. If you want to make sure only you or your family and certain friends can see it, you can do this at the time of uploading. If you don’t change the settings, it will automatically be public.
- Anyone who can see a photo on Facebook, can share it or download it.
- If you regularly share photos or videos with a limited selection of the same people, you could set up a closed group and then share the content directly into the group so only the members can see it.
- No matter what privacy settings you use to share photos on Facebook, by agreeing to their Terms of Service when you set up your account, you are signing up to allow certain use of your content. Facebook’s Terms of Service state that when you share, post or upload photos or videos, you grant them “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, and worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content.” This means you own the copyright, but they can effectively use your content as they see fit to provide their service including, for example, on advertising they create for Facebook. How would you feel about seeing your lovely snaps on a billboard advertising Facebook? If you delete your account, this permission ends, but if the image has been re-shared by other users, Facebook retains the original permission.
- Facebook owns Instagram, so the legal permissions you give them to use your photos when you create an account are the same.
- If you want control over the people who see your photos, set your account to private from the start. This means only your approved followers will see anything you share.
- Choose a username that doesn’t include your real name or other identifying information.
- If you add a location when you post a photo, it will appear on your photo map. If you don’t want this information to be used to work out regular places you visit, don’t add location when you post photos.
- If you do post location data (on Instagram or any other app), try to avoid giving away info that could lead to your home address. For example, if you tag your location when you post from home, it’ll be easy to work out your home address. Then if you’re snapping away obviously on holiday, someone could work out that your house is potentially empty.
- One of the reasons Snapchat is so popular is that the snaps you send are deleted as soon as someone else views them. However, it’s very easy for people to take screenshots of your snaps or save them via a third-party app, so you need to be as careful with privacy on Snapchat as any other platform.
- If the snaps are not viewed straight away, they can remain on Snapchat’s server until they are viewed by all recipients for up to 30 days.
- You can use the privacy settings to make sure only friends can see your snaps and stories and that you’re not sharing your location with anyone.
- If you’re in a group chat, remember anyone in the group can see your snaps.
- Be aware that any snap you submit to Live Stories can be used by Snapchat to show anyone interested what’s going on at a particular location or event.
- As with other huge tech companies, agreeing to Google’s Terms of Services means you’re granting them license to “host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works, communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute” the photos you upload. Google says this is just to enable you to use their services to the full and they won’t use your photos for commercial or promotional purposes without obtaining explicit permission.
- When you sign up to a Google account, they can gather information from your photos and how you tag them to target ads and content towards you.
- Right at the bottom of the Google Photos menu are links to Privacy and Terms. Read through what you’re signing up to and use the custom privacy settings to control the information Google collects and who to share with or block.
- When you share pics using Google Photos, the link that gets sent doesn’t require any further kind of security to access your photos. This means the link could easily be shared further giving extra people direct access to your photos.
- By default, any images you add to Flickr are open to the public to view.
- You can change the default settings to private (only you can access the photos) or friends and family (only the contacts you’ve set as friends and family can see the photos).
- If you do decide to share your photos publicly, then the rights for all photos you upload are automatically set to “All Rights Reserved”. This is the strongest copyright protection available and indicates they can’t be copied or used in any way without permission. However, your photos will still be publicly available and it’s not unusual for people to ignore copyright permissions and go ahead and use the pics for whatever they want anyway.
- You can share photos on DropBox either through making shared folders or creating a link that anyone can access. To password protect the links and give them expiry dates, you’ll need to sign up for a paid Pro account.
- To add an extra layer of security you can enable two-step verification which requires a password and six-figure code to access your account.
- Photobucket is a photo storage site that also provides image hosting so you can embed the photos you’ve uploaded on third-party websites.
- All user accounts are public by default and if you tag your photos, anyone searching for that tag can see and use your photos.
- To make your account private, go into Account Settings on your account homepage.
- In 2017, Photobucket hit the headlines after turning the free service it had provided for over a decade into a fee-paying service and disabling photos already stored on Photobucket until users paid the $400-per-year fee. It’s an important reminder that free services may not always stay that way.
- Like DropBox, iCloud backs up photos and videos online and syncs across all your devices.
- If you share an album using iCloud Photo Sharing your images can only be viewed by the people you’ve invited.
- To share an album with people who don’t use iCloud, you create an unlisted icloud.com website, so anyone who has that URL can then access the photos online.
- To increase the security of the photos you store online, you can choose to use two-step authentication.
- By default, all files and folders saved in OneDrive are private.
- If you share your photos from OneDrive by sending a link, anyone who gets hold of that link could then view your photos.
- Alternatively, you can allow people to access your photos via a specific invite that only they can use.
More settings to boost photo security
In theory, every time you send information over the internet, you’re increasing the risk of that information being compromised. But most of us weigh up that risk against all the ways the internet makes life easier and decide it’s worth it. Here are a few more tips for minimizing the risks involved with storing and sharing your family photos online:
Check your phone settings
Do you want every single snap you take on your phone to be saved online? When you install a cloud storage app on your phone, it’s usually set to auto-upload all your photos. If this sounds like just the kind of helpful function you’re looking for, great. But if you’d rather pick and choose which pics you back up to the cloud, go to the app settings and turn off auto-upload.
Delete doesn’t always means delete
Just because you’ve deleted a photo from your phone’s gallery, doesn’t mean it’s gone from the cloud. Lots of storage apps keep a copy in the cloud, which is really helpful if you accidentally delete something, but if you want a pic permanently deleted, log in to the app and double check it’s gone from there too.
Take passwords seriously
No amount of encryption will help keep your family photos safe online if you don’t manage your passwords properly. It has been reported that high-profile hacks of celebrities were in part down to their way-too-simple passwords. Think of using a complex, unique password like making sure you’ve locked your front door before you go out. Good password management includes using phrases not just single words, mixing up capital letters, numbers and special characters instead of putting them all at one end or the other, and changing your passwords every six months.
Use two-factor authentication
This is a super simple way of upping the security of your photo apps. Every time you log in to your account, you’ll need to enter a code that’s sent to your phone as well. This means that even if someone gets hold of your password, they won’t be able to access your account unless they’ve also got your phone.
Encrypt phone storage
If you really want to go all out on the security front and make your phone uncrackable if it gets stolen, make sure you go into your phone’s settings and encrypt it. This is usually in the same place you go to set a lock screen with a passcode. Check in your security settings to see if you can also encrypt your SD card.
Finding a balance between safety and convenience
If security was our only concern, we’d probably all be sticking to taking photos with actual cameras and backing up to multiple hard drives or printing pictures out and storing them in the attic. We might go as far as avoiding sending or storing any photos on the internet at all. But we’ve all had a taste of how much easier and more enjoyable life is thanks to the devices and apps we use.
When it comes to family photos, we’ve experienced how wonderful it is to be able to whip out the phone and snap that blink-of-an-eye moment between father and son or share pics of four generations going crazy together on the dance floor at a family gathering. There’s no way we’re giving all that up now.
As long as you do your research before signing up to new apps, think about your family’s main priorities for online photo storage and make the most of the settings on the tech you’ve already got, it is possible to have the best of both worlds.