The other day my uncle and I were emailing about a recent family trip, and posting pictures online. Perhaps not knowing exactly what he was getting himself into, he asked me: “How concerned are you about matters of privacy regarding Facebook, Picasa, Twitter and others? Your dad told me not long ago that he had stopped using Facebook because of that concern. For example, are you concerned, as I am, that my photos on Picasa will remain in the hands of Google even if your aunt closes her account? Am I being too sensitive about this?”
Since I feel this was somewhat apropos to the release of Google+, I thought I would share how I responded to him.
So, I somewhat accidentally wrote you two answers since you asked what was perhaps an unexpectedly interesting question. The first one is short. The second one might require a beverage and a place to put up your feet, but hey, it’s practically the weekend!
Short answer: yeah, you’re probably being too sensitive, but that’s OK. Share whatever you feel comfortable with. If Facebook creeps you out, don’t join. We can always email. But if you’re looking for an easy way to share family photos, you can’t beat Picasa albums — and you can always delete them later if you want.
Long answer: My feeling is well you’ll always have a copy of the photos you post — or you should — so if Facebook or Google goes out of business or crashes or whatever, you’ve got a backup. That’s just common sense and I imagine as a photographer you have quite a bit of hard drive space laying around so it’s not your concern.
Secondly, you are allowed to delete stuff , so if for whatever reason you want to delete your Google account you can. Just take down your photos before deleting your account. Facebook is worse about this, so for photos I’m a little more wary there. Google or Flickr don’t concern me as much. They are more explicit about not taking ownership of your content. Facebook actually states they CAN use your content without asking, so that’s where the concern lies. They are also quite sinister about allowing you to leave (they “helpfully” lock your profile in carbonite Han Solo style — if you ever rejoin, BAM it’s back up like you never left).
I’d imagine a site like 500px, that is tailored to photographers, would be respectful of your content. Often times you can poke around the site for more info about ownership and copyright stuff and it will be clear. Smaller companies usually try to set themselves apart by explicitly saying they’re better than evil corps like Facebook and Google.
Finally, for me, it is inevitable that my life content will be shared on the web because not only will it be more and more impractical for stuff to be on my local drive for various technological reasons (why keep stuff in one spot, when you can access from anywhere!), but also because I am just coming up in the world when that’s what’s being done. I see value in sharing stuff with family and friends and even strangers that outweighs the risks inherent in putting things out there. This is maybe because as a young person I have a desire to meet new friends and have networking to do — but it is also somewhat philosophical, in the sense that I feel there’s more to be gained (socially, mentally, maybe even spiritually) from being open than constantly stopping myself from taking advantage of this incredible opportunity just because something could “go wrong” (whatever that means).
I think you have to start to see that value before it makes sense to pile your life’s work into a piece of software that may not survive a year from now. 500px is a good example because it’s new and its future is far from certain. Some people might be devastated by that. Me, I would shrug and start over somewhere new because the sharing is what’s important, not the tool. There’s a real possibility you would be pleased and surprised with the amount of feedback and exposure you could get in a place like that, but you have to want it.
If you read this far, pour another drink, you deserve it.