The combination of text with images provides a powerful tool for communication and expression. However, when you share images you are sharing information about yourself with others. It's important that you learn how to share photos and video online so that you can remain safe and avoid having your personal images stolen and used in inappropriate or even illegal ways.


Sharing Photos Safely

With digital cameras and camera phones we’ve entered a wonderful new age of sharing and documenting everyday life and events as they occur. Cell phones with cameras are with many of us all the time and the quality of the cameras is rapidly improving. With the explosion of blogs; mobile blogs (called moblogs); photo sharing sites; personal Web sites; and image sharing in e-mails and IM, sharing photos and videos has never been easier.

Managing who sees your digital images, from photos to videos, is critical to avoiding the potential exposure of private or personal information to people outside your trusted friends and family. The same pictures and videos you want to share with friends and family may contain information that also has value to criminals.

Only use reputable sites, and only share photos that contain identifiable information with people you trust.
To make photos with identifiable information safer to share publicly:

  1. Use a photo editing tool such as Windows Photo Gallery to cover up or crop out information that could put you at risk -- for example, your house number, street sign, and so on. You may also choose to blur small sections.
  2. Strip metadata from the photo. Some sites allow viewers to see the settings used to take the photo, the time and date when the photo was taken, and even show the geographical coordinates of the place where the photo was taken if the camera or camera phone documents this information. This means a photo taken in your backyard may provide others with information they can use to locate your home.
  3. Reduce the resolution of the photo – lower resolution makes it less likely that others will copy the photo.

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Image copyright infringement

Any artwork in a ‘fixed’ tangible form automatically has copyright protection. Any use of a photo, video or other artwork without express permission of the creator is an infringement of copyright. Consumers have to avoid violating copyrights and committing plagiarism, but they also should be aware that anything they post online may be misused in illegal ways.

On the Internet, copyrights are frequently disregarded and photos posted publicly are likely to be stolen or repurposed. Images may be used to humiliate, bully, or harass, probably the most frequent abuse of photos among teens and spurned partners. Photos are also stolen to sell or trade for a variety of unsavory uses. Once a photo is posted publicly, it may be very difficult, if not impossible, to locate and remove all copies of it.

Consider your reputation before sharing a risqué photo or one that shows you exercising poor judgment (for example, drinking heavily). If the photo is taken by or of a minor, the image may be child pornography which is illegal.

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Sharing videos online

Video sharing online has exploded in the last couple of years with content ranging from harmless personal videos and educational content, to videos that promote hate, sex and violence.

While most Web sites have policies against pornography, violence, posting copyrighted material, and so on, they primarily rely on users to report abuse they’ve already been exposed to, rather than filtering the content before it is uploaded. This means that you or your children may come across a great deal of inappropriate material.

Video content can be particularly compelling for criminals. Videos generally provide more visual information than a photo, plus they may allow the predator to hear a person’s voice and watch mannerisms. There are often clues in the background of videos that provide additional personal or location information for the person who knows how to look for it. Videos of children or provocative women are especially interesting to sexual predators.

Tips for staying safe when you post videos

Check these tips when posting videos online:

  1. Select a reputable service and understand the site’s Terms and Conditions. If you do not retain full control of your content, consider selecting a different site.
  2. Before posting video content, consider all the potential information it contains. If it includes personally identifiable information, consider making the video private. Also, listen to what is said; words can also give away identity and location.
  3. If the video shows friends or family members, you may be putting them at risk, too. You should obtain permission from everyone shown in the video before posting it.
  4. Remember that once you post information publicly, it can stay around forever and may pop up when you least expect it.
  5. If you see inappropriate content or comments on your content report it. The service should review the report and take appropriate action.


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Using webcams

Webcams are relatively inexpensive, and many laptops now come with webcams embedded in the lid. Webcams can be a great way to communicate with friends and family, but quickly become risky when used for conversations with strangers.
Teens in particular struggle to use good judgment when using webcams. Normal inhibitions seem to fall away when they are not physically present with the person they are speaking to and many expose themselves figuratively and literally. In addition to having a conversation about appropriate webcam use with children and teens, it may be wise to limit access to webcams.

Note that webcams can also be high-jacked and turned on remotely. This allows predators to view and listen to individuals without their knowledge.  When you aren’t using them, consider turning your webcam off or disconnect it if it is not a built-in model.

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