Thursday, February 13, 2014

Safe and Secure Photo Sharing? Not!

Today is the age of technology. We are constantly being bombarded by digital media, whether its on the news, online, or in newspapers. In fact, the average age for a child to start consuming digital media is eight years old. Even eight to eighteen year olds spend an average of ten hours and forty-five minutes a day online, as opposed to seven hours and thirty minutes in 1990. (Edudemic) Being connected online has many advantages and consequences that come along with it. More specifically, photo-sharing apps have many advantages. They allow users to edit and organize their photos, and most importantly, allow users to stay connected with others by sharing photos. However, these apps have plenty of problems as a result. Despite advertisements to the contrary, photos from photo-sharing apps
Image: Courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
are saved rather than self-destructing. They also lead to a spike in inappropriate pictures, and create privacy problems within the digital world. Unless companies stop their false advertising and better regulate the pictures being uploaded, the privacy of people using these apps will continue to be violated.

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.


  1. this is a very good paper with lots of facts and details but what is the real harm is you don't use the apps in harmful ways? anyways very good article but I don't think a lot of those apps are headed in a bad direction anytime soon but that is my opinion.

    1. Hello Abatha W., thank you for your comment. You have a very good question. After thinking about it, my opinion is if you don't purposely use the app in a bad way, like sending inappropriate pictures on Snapchat, then there is no real harm. However, no matter what picture you send, it can still be saved, and I think that is the most important message that users need to know. While it may not be on purpose, I think these apps can still create harm. I also understand your opinion on these apps. While there are consequences, these apps do have benefits which continue to attract users around the world.
      Thanks again for your input!-----Girl15

  2. Good job, Girl15, explaining how risky is is to post photos on photo-sharing apps expecting them to be private and to disappear. While looking online to see whether Snapchat has improved its service, I noticed that the site has been hacked and users' phone numbers have been taken. Attempts to repair site security have failed. So not only does a user risk having her photos saved and publicized somewhere, but personal information is not protected. I agree with you that users should be very cautious when considering photo-sharing apps.--Ms. Riches

    1. Hi Ms. Riches, thank you for replying! I did not know that users phone numbers are also being taken along with photos. That is very interesting! While the company is facing privacy issues with photo sharing, they are also facing hacking problems. It is evident that the Snapchat company needs to take a detailed look in how their app is working. Thank you for sharing!-Girl15

  3. Hello Girl15,
    I like how you explain all of the risks and disadvantages of online photo-sharing. You mentioned that 52% of teens say social media strengthens their friendships. Do you think that socia media has strengthened your friendships? I agree with you that there seems to be more downsides to online photo-sharing than benefits.

    1. Hi Annelise4494, thank you for commenting and for reading my blog! As for your question, I do think social media strengthens my friendships. It allows me to stay connected with friends, but in a fun and interesting way, rather than just talking on the phone or texting. However, I do think these apps are doing more than just strengthening friendships, many of which are negative. For example, as said in this article (, which I encourage you to take a look at,(it gives statistics on advantages and disadvantages of photo-sharing) 45% of teens also say they sometimes get frustrated with friends using social media too often. So, while there are benefits to these apps, unfortunately, there are consequences that come with it.
      Thanks again,

  4. Hi Girl15. I thought that your post was very interesting and it really made me consider the consequences to having photo-sharing apps. I was very surprised by the false advertising that many services, such as Snapchat and Whisper, are doing. Are there legal issues that come with this false advertising or any laws that prevent it? Also, are there any actions being taken against people who post pictures of individuals without their permission? Great insight; I completely agree that people should know the consequences of photo-sharing apps and should be considerate of how they are using them.--Hannah

    1. Hello Hannah, thanks for your contribution to my blog! To answer your question, as of right now, there are no legal issues with this false advertising. While false advertising is illegal and there are laws to prevent it, because Snapchat and Whisper do state they are saving your photos in their privacy policy and terms of agreement, it is technically legal. Because the majority of people do not read these policies before they click "agree," most do not know what these apps actually do. However, it is legal since they state it in their privacy policy. As for your second question, there are some actions being taken for those who post pictures without the individual's consent. As stated in this article, which I encourage you to read (, when the website Reddit allowed people to post pictures of women without their permission, people began to take action, and debate the privacy rights people are entitled to. It is evident that people are starting to take a stand in trying to make the digital world a better place. Thanks again for commenting!---GIrl15

  5. Hi Girl15. I believe that your post is very relevant to issues that are happening today and it also contains information and statistics that I was unaware of before reading it. Your post shows how ignorant many teens are about what happens to their photos after they press send. What I am wondering though, is how do 'self destructing' photos give teens the idea that it is ok to send inappropriate pictures in the first place, and why don't the companies just come out and directly say that they are saving the photos that travel through their site? Over all your post shows how people should be more cautious online. --Dragon99

    1. Hi Dragon99, thank you so much for your input on my blog! You have very good questions. First of all, because teens are told that the Snapchat app will automatically delete photos in a matter of seconds, teens think that it would be okay to send inappropriate pictures because they will just "disappear." However, as I know from doing research, that is not the case. But because the app advertises their photos will self destruct, teens think no one will ever know if they send inappropriate photos. The app almost justifies the action of "sexting." I encourage you to read this article ( which describes in further detail why the app is encouraging sexting. To answer your second question, while I am not positive, it is most likely that companies don't just announce they are saving photos because that could turn away users. If people are aware their photos will be saved, they may not use the service because it will feel like an invasion of privacy. If companies do not announce this fact, (and only put it in their privacy terms, which most people do not read) then people may not be aware and therefore, feel like the app is safe to use. Thanks again for your comment, I really appreciate it!---Girl15

  6. In my opinion its inspiring than killing. I have tried using Instagram like app and felt good with the features involved in it. This apps helps to transform your everyday photos and videos into works of art and share them with your family and friends.

    Every apps have both pros and cons it matters how we make use of it.

    Instagram scripts


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