While photos are one of the most compelling parts of Facebook, they can also have the most reputation damaging potential. Many parents know well the damage a racy photo could do to their career, and how a photo their teen rashly uploads can go viral in their school and affect their chances of getting into a college. A picture is worth a thousand words; when it can be uploaded and tagged by anyone at any time to the largest social network in the world, it is easy to see the potential for catastrophic reputation damage. This lack of control over personal image is alarming, but there are things that can be done to keep problems to a minimum. Here are a few tips:
- Only share photos with your friends. This way, even if someone does tag you in a photo that you don’t like, it will only be your friends that will see it before you un-tag yourself. Changing all your photos to “Friends Only” is easy. When you are logged into Facebook click on the “Account” tab, and then “Privacy Settings” on the pull down. You will see a list of privacy settings for different aspects of Facebook. Click on “Customize Settings”, which is colored blue and located under this list. In the section titled “Things others share”, click on the “Edit Settings” for “Photos and videos you’re tagged in”. It will then show you your current setting. Click on it, and choose “Friends Only”.
- Specify which people see certain albums. Nowadays, both parents and teens are Facebook friends with many different people from their lives. For one reason or another, you may have a preference of who sees your photo albums, depending on the person. To make some photo albums invisible to various people and not others, go to your Facebook Privacy Settings and click on the blue “Customize settings” button. Go to the bottom of the “Things I share” section and click on “Edit privacy settings for existing photo albums and videos”. Here, you will see the photo albums you have uploaded to Facebook. Under each album, there is a button that shows what your current privacy settings are for each individual photo album. When you click it, it will give you a list of options for who sees that album. You can choose one of those, or click on “Customize” to get even more detailed. This will allow you to type in the name of specific people you want to see the album, or even specify people you do not want to see that album.
- Turn off Facial Recognition. This is a feature Facebook automatically opted people in for, which caused a significant amount of controversy. What is does is use facial recognition technology to look at the photos your Facebook friends upload, and suggest they tag you in ones that Facebook thinks look like you. While it could prove helpful, it could also lead to people just clicking through and tagging you in pictures, and not thinking as much about whether or not you would appreciate being tagged in that particular photo. To disable this, just go to your privacy settings and click on “Customize Settings”. See the “Things others share” section and click “Edit Settings” for “Suggest photos of me to friends”. You will see a button that says “Enabled” on the right. Click it and choose “Disabled”. Even with the tagging suggestions disabled, are you still creeped out that Facebook has facial recognition information about you in their database? There is actually a way to request that they get rid of this information. Just go here in the Facebook help section, and click on “How can I remove the summary information stored about me for tag suggestions?”. You will see “contact us” highlighted in the answer. When you click on that, it will give you a pre-written message to send to Facebook; all you have to do is click “okay”.
When it comes to Facebook photos, the rule of thumb is to not post photos of yourself that you would not be okay with everyone, on Facebook or not, seeing. Taking advantage of the Facebook privacy settings can definitely help your chances of keeping reputation damaging photos out of the wrong people’s hands, but the only surefire way is to just keep your embarrassing or unflattering photos off Facebook. If you have Facebook friends that upload photos of you that you don’t like, just ask them politely to take the photos down. You could even explain to them why this is important to you, and maybe they will be more careful about their own Facebook photos. Always keep in mind, the social network is a tool built to share content about yourself with the world, not to hide it. It is up to you to make sure the world sees your best side.