Google Yourself!

A couple months ago, I blasted the social media community for dramatically overreacting to the new Instagram privacy policy. As I am sure most of you remember, the immensely popular photo sharing service introduced a crafty new policy that stated users who sign up with the service automatically give ownership of the photos they put on the application to Instagram. Delving further into the policy, it stated that Instagram had full liberty to sell pictures to third parties for “promotional purposes”.

After this privacy policy went live, you would have thought the world was coming to an end the way people reacted. The whining and crying about the policy reached ridiculously high rates. Online petitions circulated like wild fire. Talk of boycotts and lawsuits gained steam. People with too much time on their hands demanded answers from the big wigs at Instagram.

I pretty much just sat back and laughed…and then I wrote a blog post about the stupidity of it all. I basically said that for anyone to be so worried (and arrogant) to think that their Instagram photos would be chosen out of all the billions of photos that are in the app’s database to be featured in some type of marketing campaign were beyond delusional.

Fast forward two months later to the present time and I still feel many of the people who let some social media privacy policy ruin their whole day acted out in the most idiotic way possible. However, after I learned about a certain event involving one of my friends, I did come around just a little bit to why they were freaking out so bad.

My friend was in the library today and in the middle of everything she had a couple minutes of downtime. Like any smart, motivated young person does occasionally, she Googled herself. (Hate to shift into my lecturing tone real fast but it is important to Google yourself every two to three weeks. Find out where your name pops up, see what people are saying about you, make sure no red flags or inaccurate information comes up). So she types in her name and one of her high school senior pictures comes up. Although it is not on a local website…it is in Toronto. But this gets even better (or worse depending on how you look at it), her image is being used in context with an educational subject. But not an educational subject like photosynthesis or hibernation. Can you guess what subject it is? BIRTH CONTROL!

Featured on the website , my friend’s image was placed prominently at the very top of one of the pages of the site titled “Birth Control: Finding The Best Fit”. Now all kidding aside, it is not like birth control is that terrible of a subject but to unknowingly have your picture placed right in the middle of a page of a foreign website that is discussing a topic some might find awkward is a little unsettling. I mean what if she steadfastly opposes any type of birth control? To see your image associated with the topic would be very upsetting. I know that if my image ever appeared next to something that I strongly disagreed with or detested I would feel very uncomfortable and angry. For just a short moment, I kind of felt the uneasiness that many of the Instagram privacy policy protesters felt.

Because my friend is one of the coolest cats you will meet, she did not flip out over her library session discovery. In fact, she even told me this had happened before. One time her mom went to the doctor and flipped through a magazine issue of WebMD and saw a photo of her daughter in one of the ads. Once again, it was one of her senior portraits. My friend told me that she believes she remembers signing a waiver with the photographer that gave him the rights to the photos along with the permission to sell them at his discretion. Obviously the photographer knew he would make more money off of my friend than just the money she was giving him because she is a very attractive girl but I do question the ethics of a photographer selling the images of his clients, especially the younger ones. But as I said before, my friend does not care so it is not my battle to get into.

So the purpose of this post is for me to first concede that maybe just a little bit I can see now why so many people went cuckoo with Instagram’s privacy policy. Although I still hold to my guns that 99.9% of Instagram users will never see their photos used by a third party, I can see why some might worry if what happened to my friend happened to them. Secondly, make sure to Google yourself! Even if you don’t mind at all about what is out on the web about you, at least you have an idea. Remember, you can follow me on Instagram at @BrentReser. Don’t Blink.