How safe are your photos on social media sites?

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The story in the Daily Mirror recently sounded very scary. People accessing photos of children from social media sites and printing them on mugs. However they were able to do that because of the way the photos had been put on the internet (the point the company behind the story were trying to make).  The photos were downloaded from Flickr, an online photo album site; they were not taken from Facebook.

Social media is widely used and can be a great way to keep in touch with friends and family around the world. With those possibilities does come some risk but careful use of privacy settings and understanding how they work makes a huge difference to who sees your updates and photos, and greatly reduces the potential for anyone to misuse them.


When anyone uploads a photo to Flickr there are a choice of options to set out what other people can do with that photo.

Flickr license options

Flickr license options

The default setting is ‘all rights reserved’, which means other people can not use your photo in anyway.  You have to actively choose an alternative setting to enable people to download and use your photo.

If you do use Flickr you can also choose who can see the photo: only you, friends, family, or everyone.  The photos that were part of the story that appeared in the Daily Mirror came from Flickr. The people who had uploaded them had also changed their settings to allow others to use them.



When you put photos on Facebook you can control who sees them. Each time you write a new post or share photos you can choose the audience it goes to by using the little arrow at the end of the box that says ‘Friends’.

Facebook post options

Facebook post options

Facebook has a vast array of privacy settings, they do change from time to time so it is always good practice to go through and check your settings.  If you go to you can look through them all and update any you need to. You can change who can see posts you’ve made in the past as well.

More advice and guidance

The NSPCC are running a campaign at the moment called Share Aware.  They have produced useful guides to lots of social media and game sites and advise on privacy settings and controls.


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