We’re living in a world where nobody really thinks about sharing anymore…
…They just kinda do it.
Do you consider privacy ramifications before you share a photo of that delicious dessert you’re about to devour?
Most don’t. A few taps and it’s on Facebook for everyone to see.
For Most Of Us, That’s PERFECTLY OK.
Let’s be honest.
I don’t really give a fig whether someone else uses my pictures of that nice meal I had.
Sometimes though, we want to retain complete ownership over media we’ve created. A painting. An excerpt of a novel written. Something we’re proud of and want to keep. Or that picture we REALLY regret taking.
And the answer to that problem is simple….
Just don’t share that stuff on social media.
Except it’s not, because…
Social Media Has Normalized The Concept Of Sharing.
The first time I got behind the wheel of a car, I was nervous.
4,000 pounds of motorized power, at the fingers of someone who really shouldn’t have it.
INTELLECTUALLY… I knew nothing bad was going to happen. I had someone riding shotgun precisely for that reason. The chances of disaster were tiny.
And yet my brain wouldn’t stop reminding me that if I screwed this up SOMEONE WAS GOING TO DIE.
So I became paranoid. Every little detail stood out to me when my foot was on that pedal. Every other car, every person walking on the sidewalk. The signs and parked vehicles and markings on the road.
The one thought running through my head was…
‘If I go about this the wrong way, there are BIG consequences.’
Today, I get in my car every day, drive with barely a thought.
Almost on autopilot.
The circumstances behind what I’m doing hasn’t changed since that first time I got behind the wheel. The risks are less likely, but identical.
To put it simply: I’ve grown so used to the potential dangers of driving that I don’t even think about it anymore.
The exact same thing happens with social media.
We Don’t Think About Social Media Privacy (Or Lack Of) Because It’s Become Our Life.
So what ARE the dangers of social media?
Most people (even most people reading this) probably won’t ever need to worry about social media privacy.
They do anyway.
A huge percentage of people regret and worry about the posts they put on social media. More women than men. Some of that has to do with privacy. The vast majority just regret sounding dumb, though.
But if you’re a frequent creator of content. If you share sensitive photos or video online. If you, in any way, want to retain complete rights to what you put out there…
Then this should concern you.
Let’s start with the basic question – do you still own the rights to something you share on social media (that you created)?
The Answer: Yes And No.
Or… it’s complicated.
Say I’m talking a walk in the local park, and come across a magnificent tree, flowers in full bloom. I take a picture. Snap. I’m excited at how well it turns out.
But hold on.
At this point – the picture I’ve just taken wholly and completely belongs to me. It’s 100% mine. I’ve created it. I own it.
Then I Share It With My Network On Facebook.
This is where things get interesting.
Alarmists will say that the photo I’ve just shared is now owned by Facebook. That the ONLY way to keep the rights to something is to just… not put it up there.
That’s an exaggeration.
But not one totally without merit.
What Can Social Media Platforms Actually Do With What You Share?
More than you probably think.
Putting a file on social media means giving that platform free license to use that file for whatever they need it for.
Now, part of that is necessary. After all, they don’t want to get sued after you’ve posted an image on their platform and they’re displaying it a certain way. And they DO ask your permission first.
But it’s hardly innocent.
There have been numerous instances in which data was given to social media networks and they’ve done things that they would NOT want published in the media (but sometimes were anyway).
In the case of my tree photo – they can use it for promotions, display it anywhere they’d like, and (in some cases) send it or sell it to partners!
In fact, even some non-social media applications do this by collecting your data.
But if you’ve read any of our other blog posts… you know that already.
What is true is that even after I publish that photo, I still own it. The rights are mine.
When You Put Something On Social…
…You’re not just handing it to the network you post it on.
You’re also exposing it to PEOPLE.
In some cases, a LOT of people.
Which means that even if you technically own the material, there are some things you can’t put back in the box once they’re out.
For instance, say I decide that this tree photo I took is a freakin’ MASTERPIECE. The whole world is going to see it… and they’re going to pay me for it.
So… I’ll want all those images back.
The thing is, trying to get the people who downloaded those images to delete what they already have is pretty much impossible without doing something extreme.
Once you put something out there… there is little or no way of enforcing your rights.
If someone wants to put your image up on Reddit, they’re going to do it. With or without your permission.
There’s a risk that the stuff you put on social media will be used by those platforms in ways you don’t approve one.
But the potentially bigger risks…
…Are The People You Share That Stuff WITH.
Not something we usually think about.
But something we SHOULD.
Sure, what you post on your networks might be mined for data or sold. But ultimately, they’re certainly not going to stop you if you start enforcing your rights to own those images you’ve shared.
The people who’ve gotten a hold of your images just might.
What Should You Be Sharing?
The only surefire way to make sure your photos, videos, and documents are actually, well, yours?
Avoid sharing anything that you’ll need to use exclusively for commercial use.
Private photos you might regret putting out there. Sensitive documents that are better left on your own devices.
Failing that, avoid posting anything you don’t want social media platforms to gather data from, sell, or promote.
And be careful WHO you’re sharing with.
It’s The Small Things You Need To Watch Out For.
For the vast majority of stuff you post on social, you likely don’t need to worry about privacy.
The only risk of those posts is them learning TOO much about your habits.
But otherwise, companies like Facebook and Twitter don’t have much interest in making use of the everyday posts you put on them.
(Though you did give them permission.)
It’s the small percentage of content you’re putting on there that you want to keep that you REALLY need to watch out for.
So keep an eye out, and avoid those post-sharing regrets.