Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Online Privacy Settings: Putting Up the Virtual Fences

By Eve Hemsley

Controlling who sees what and where you post is the new hot topic of social networking sites like Facebook and Google +. Battling over privacy settings have companies creating new features to immediately control who will see your post as you write it – and photo sharing sites like Flickr will not be left behind in the fight.

Flickr’s latest defense to keep up with the new genre of privacy settings is geofences, a new precautionary feature that allows users to map out zones and set distinct location sharing settings for those areas. With location services now being standard in online interactions, Flickr front-end engineer Trevor Hartsell felt that geofences was essential for adapting to the new standard.

In the words of Mashable’s Associate Editor Jennifer Van Grove, here’s why geofences matters: “Fluffy the cat is being extra cute today. You snap a photo of Fluffy with your smartphone and share it on the web. The photo of Fluffy, depending on your default settings, could carry with it metadata that exposes your home address. Now you have a potential privacy kerfuffle on your hands.”

Jennifer poses an interesting problem that people do not often consider while they are constantly updating their every move and location. Geofences is in place to ensure that only those in your safe and familiar circle will be able to see Fluffy and her exact location.

When setting up a geofence, users can create a 250-meter radius surrounding their home and then specify a group of people (family, friends, etc.) who would be able to see the more specific origins of posted photos within that radius. Users will also be able to go back and create privacy settings for pictures posted in the past.

The endearing aspect of Flickr’s geofences is that it does seem to have everyone’s safety in mind. As the virtual boundaries of the world get smaller and smaller, Flickr is working to at least keep your address a mystery.

Eve Hemsley is an Associate Account Executive at Maroon PR. Contact her at Eve@MaroonPR.com.

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