Editor’s note (*snerk*): October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month.
One of the most commonly repeated pieces of advice given about privacy on the Internet is “be careful who you allow to see your stuff.” That advice is good, but it doesn’t quite cover it. Pictures posted on many social networking sites can be set to only be viewed by your friends, or even subsets of friends. However, there are ways around those protections. On Facebook, anyone who has access to the picture can copy the picture’s URL and send or post it to others. The URL allows anyone, even people without Facebook accounts to view the picture. On MySpace, there was a way to view any users pictures from a slide show, so long as you knew their ID number (which is easily obtainable). This has since been fixed, it seems. There are also methods for finding private pictures on Photobucket and other sites.
Beyond the somewhat innocent ways of compromising your pictures, there are also more sinister ways of losing control of your content. If you have a weak password, or reuse passwords, or let your password be known, you are open to someone compromising your account and removing, changing, or adding content. This has the potential to be very damaging to your personal life. And of course, anything that can be viewed on screen can be copied in a screen capture and posted anywhere.
That isn’t to say that your content shouldn’t be controlled. It is still a wise idea to try to keep tabs on things you don’t want everyone to see. The important thing to remember is that your private pictures aren’t, and anything on the Internet might eventually make its way into public view.