Living in a more connect world and carrying phone camera’s around with us we are all taking many more photographs that we used to. To keep them safe many companies are offering ways to backup and share our photos and in most cases this is a good thing. I was at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta this weekend and shared pictures of the Balloons taking off at dawn and they were well received by friends and family. If my balloon pictures had gone further and the general public had seen them I would not have been too worried but the situation might have been different if it had been pictures of a family celebration for example.
How much privacy and security do you need? Depending on how you treat, upload and store your photos they might be viewable by anyone, friends and family, nominated people only, staff at the storage site, staff at your internet service provider, people on your local network, people with access to your PC or no-one at all.
To give a good example – PhotoBucket is a well known site with a decent app for Android and iOS which gives you a number of gigabytes of storage for free. Sounds good? It is a good deal but the small print explains that the default on your pictures is public. With the right URL anyone can come and look at your pictures. As your pictures upload they (or a sampling of them) appear on Photobucket’s Recent Uploads page. There are several well known techniques and software programs that keep track of these pages (and others similar to it) that let people keep track of and grab interesting images that have made their way into the public.
Before you think that just avoiding PhotoBucket is the answer it’s not that simple. Photobucket is the most obvious and easy to explain but even the better services have holes and the potential for images to be seen by your ISP, intercepted on your local or the storage provider themselves is always there. The answer – depending on which service you choose make sure that the files are uploaded on a secure connection, that the defaults are set to private and that they are not against the terms of service – that could result in an account getting shut down and you will be secure for most images.
So what is the answer for those images we really don’t want to share? If you get really paranoid about it what you are looking for is what is called a Trust No One (TNO) system. In the simplest terms this is a setup where you encrypt files before they leave your system and you have the only set of keys. The encrypted files can be backed up on a cloud service such as Dropbox with little risk that they could be read. It is tricky to setup and not straightforward to use but it is secure from the vast majority of people. Guides can be found here. So would you be totally secure with this? Secure from the average guy – yes. Secure from the NSA or the equivalent – probably not but most of us don’t need to be.
In the end there isn’t a right level of security for everyone or every photo. The more secure you are the less convenient things become. Where you end up is up a decision based on what you need – just be aware of the defaults and make sure you are happy with them.