Social Protection Apps—Paranoid or Valid?

“Just because your photos are ‘private’ doesn’t mean they can’t go public.”

Say what? “But I clicked ‘Friends’ under my privacy settings so no one else can view them,” you’re thinking. Think again. A new app from McAfee Security aims to lock down your photos by blurring them, requiring a plug-in to view them and preventing them from being downloaded.

It used to be that “Friends” meant friends, only people you requested or accepted. But one day, you noticed Sally Sue, “Friends with Billy Bob,” commented on your photo. You don’t know this Sally, whose profile pic is a shameless mirror selfie, so there’s no way you accepted a friend request from her. And then you figure it out: Privacy settings don’t always stay put where you left them, because now friends of friends can see your pictures through the twists and turns of Facebook’s always-updating inner workings. Billy gets tagged in your picture? Sally, because she’s Billy’s friend, sees it and can comment on it, like it, share it—or even download it. And then it might go viral with friends of friends of friends of friends gaining access to your once private pictures.

McAfee Security, well known for its anti-virus software, doesn’t want Sally to invade your privacy, so beyond its services that secure systems and networks, and even beyond its mobile security apps for safekeeping passwords and defending against viruses, the company provides a social protection app—for your photos. The McAfee Social Protection Beta is now available for Android devices (released last summer for Windows 7 and later).

In a nutshell, the app lets you control who can see your photos—for real this time. For people you don’t know, like Sally, your photos will appear blurred. To see that sucker in full clarity, friends must install and run the McAfee extension. The people at McAfee say that images on Facebook are in danger of being saved and manipulated without their owner’s permission. With its plug-in, guest list and lock-down features, the app promises that your photos will stay your photos.

It’s hard to keep up with your digital trail. Don’t want that picture of you chomping on a burger on Facebook for everyone to see? No worries—McAfee’s got you covered. Also involved in the plug-in will be facial recognition software that will alert you when anyone uploads a photo that might include you—but isn’t tagged. You can immediately ask (or beg) your friend to take it down.

But do we really need a social protection app to keep the Sallys away from our “private” pictures? Or is it just plain paranoid—and annoying? By installing the app, you might be protecting your photos from being shared to Sally and then to whomever she knows and so on, but you’re also asking your friends to use third-party software to socialize with you. It might be so inconvenient that they’ll just say forget it and move on.

It’s the digital age, and we can share more than ever before. So is it vital that we protect ourselves more than ever before, too? Or is it getting ridiculous—this web of social protection?

What do you think? Would you add this extra layer of protection on your photos? Would you reciprocate and download the plug-in to view others’ photos?

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