|Image: Courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0|
One photo-sharing app, Snapchat, allows users to send photos that will “disappear"in a matter of seconds. They advertise that their photos will self destruct, when in reality, that is not true. According to a digital forensics examiner, "the actual app is even saving the picture. They claim that it's deleted, and it's not even deleted. It's actually saved on the phone." According to a Master of Arts candidate at the journalism institute at New York University, photos can be retrieved, transferred, and saved. This false advertising leads to many privacy problems with photo-sharing apps.
Considering the fact that photos do not self-destruct and can be retrieved, this leads to serious privacy problems. A journalist for USA Today says, “screenshots of supposedly private ‘snaps’ have been uploaded to Facebook pages with titles like ‘Snapchat Adults Only,’ ‘Snapchat Unseen,’ and ‘Snapchat Leaked.’" Because most of these screenshots are being reposted without the original owner’s permission, this is a serious privacy issue. Even 10% of teens have had embarrassing picture posted without their permission. (Edudemic) Furthermore, according to Snapchat’s privacy terms, "When you send or receive messages using the Snapchat services, we temporarily process and store your images and videos in order to provide our services...we cannot guarantee that the message contents will be deleted in every case" (USA Today). So, while you think your photos are private, they may stay on the server forever. Also, there is even an app called Snap Save, which allows users to save the snaps they receive without letting the sender know. This gives further evidence of the privacy problems these apps can create. Another photo-sharing site, called Whisper, allows users to write “secrets” on top of photos while the user will remain anonymous. However, users, in the privacy agreements, have to agree that they “understand that WhisperText does not guarantee confidentiality with respect to any User Content you submit" (USA Today). Users may think they are anonymous, when actually, their photo-sharing is not confidential. In addition, iPhones and Androids can be easily hacked with an internet connection, and because apps are not confidential, supposedly private information from apps can be exposed to anyone.
Additionally, a site called Reddit, a community and social news site which allows users to share anything from news to photos, was criticized in 2012. This site was encouraging people to secretly take pictures of women on the street and then post them for people to comment on. Not only did this uncover major privacy problems (the women did not give their permission to post photos of themselves), it also violated ownership rights and digital rights.
Photo-sharing apps have also led to an escalation in sharing inappropriate photos. “Sexting,” which is the term for sending sexual photos, is a common problem with technology, however lately, it has been said that Snapchat has been the cause of an increase in teen sexting. Now that teens think Snapchat photos “disappear,” they assume that it is okay to send inappropriate photos to others. According to a journalist for the New York Daily News, even the company admitted that Snapchat is rated for users twelve years old and up due to the “mild sexual content or nudity.” In a study by Edudemic, 20% of teens have sent sexual photos of themselves, and they often don’t know the risks. As reported by the New York Times, sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest are having trouble regulating photos and where to draw the line to decide what is inappropriate.
Instagram, in a recent study they just announced, said they have 150 million users, and it is said that over 350 million “snaps” are being sent each day. Because so many people are using these apps, it is evident that many people are affected by the problems of photo-sharing apps. However, there is a bright side. These apps help teens connect with others and find common interests, as well as allow users to organize their photos and edit them. Even 52% of teens say social media strengthens their friendships and 37% say it strengthens their family relationships. (Edudemic) However, in my opinion, while there are some great advantages to having a photo-sharing app, the consequences, like a lack of privacy, false advertising, and a rise in inappropriate photos, far exceed the advantages. I believe that it is important to know the consequences of these apps to avoid them in the future.
Ultimately, photo-sharing apps, despite their advertising, save their users’ photos, which leads to an increase of inappropriate photos and many privacy problems. In my opinion, these companies need to fix their advertising and better regulate the photos being uploaded in order to fix these problems. Once companies are able to recognize these problems, it is possible that we can truly have good digital citizenship.
Conclusion, updated [3/5/14]
Contradicting their advertisements, photos from photo-sharing apps are saved rather than self-destructing, they also lead to a spike in inappropriate pictures, and create many privacy problems. The privacy of users will continue to be violated until companies improve their digital citizenship by stopping their false advertising, and better regulating the pictures being uploaded to their sites. Knowing these consequences is important to the concept of digital citizenship because the digital citizenship of the world and its people will only improve if, and only if, they know the results of their actions. After reading the comments I received on my blog, I was very interested to find that most agreed with me and did not change my mind, that sharing photos do have consequences. However, I did receive one comment, from a person I did not know, who posed a very interesting question, and actually helped me clarify what people can do to help prevent these consequences. This person asked, if people don’t actually use the apps in a bad way, is there any harm? After thinking about it, I concluded that even if a person does not deliberately use the app in a bad way, unlike sending inappropriate photos, photos will still never go away, which may have a negative consequence. The reality of the situation is many of the consequences are out of the control of the users, and people may not be able to prevent all the consequences. On the other hand, some consequences, like sending inappropriate photos, can be stopped or prevented, and it is very important for people, specifically teens, to know all the consequences. While commenting, I did not have to do any further research, however I did have to reread my sources, and I was surprised to find that many of the answers to people’s questions were in the articles, which I had chosen to use for research, but seemed to overlook some facts, or didn't think they were helpful in proving my point. I was able to answer their questions and give them the link to the article for their use. These comments really helped me since I was able to clarify my information and it showed me more information to prove my point. After reading other posts, I was also very pleased to find out more information about the digital world. I learned about how passwords may not be as safe as I think they are, and that video games may actually help our brains develop. I also learned that ads on the internet may track us wherever we go, whether its online shopping or using Facebook. Specifically, I was very surprised to learn that there are even sites that track your mouse’s every movement, and also track what you may plan to post, but never posted and deleted it. Before, I always thought that as long as you never posted something, and deleted it after typing it, then it would not be saved. Finally, after having this experience with blogging, I feel much more “caught up” with the digital world. The digital world is massive, but being able to research and read other posts really helped me get a better sense of what happens in the digital world. Blogging helps people stay in tune and connected with the digital world, but in an active way because it allows you to comment as well. I think blogging is very helpful if you want to know other people’s opinions on the topic, or if you want your opinion to be heard by others. Blogging can also help people learn the benefits and consequences of the digital world, which can let them know how to avoid consequences in the future, and improve their own digital citizenship.