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One of the things I’ve always liked about Flickr was the easy granular control over pictures. I have pictures of my kids up on Flickr, but to protect their privacy only people I mark as family and friends can see them. This is great, but what if I take a picture of something close to my house or their school and I don’t want strangers figuring out where that actually is? Today’s geotagging in cameras and software makes it easy to figure out where people live and work. Sure this isn’t a problem if your friends and family know (unless you’re hiding from them, in which case you shouldn’t be posting stuff online), but what about the world? Personally tend to turn geotagging off on my cameras, etc because I don’t want to accidentally reveal locations I’d rather keep private. Maybe now I won’t have to because Flickr has rolled out something to hide location info from people around sensitive areas. They call it geofencing.
So how do geofences work?
First you need to go to your Flickr Geo Privacy settings (wow who would have though we’d ever need geo privacy settings?) and set the global level. Flickr recommends that you allow everyone to see location info by default. This is fine, because we’ll start putting up the fence soon.
Creating a fence is easy. Click “create new”, drag the circle to the map (search if you have to find a location), set the distance, and who gets to see the information, then click apply. This will apply to all future uploads, what about past ones? That comes on the next screen. Flickr will look at all your photos that have geographic info and see which ones fall into your new region, if they do you can then have the geofence applied to them as well.
I set a fence about 1 KM around my house and where I often vacation, which brings me to an interesting thing: the void.
While putting a geofence around your house or school is great, if you take a lot of pictures around your area and enough are surrounding your fenced off area, your fence is going to show up as a giant void in the data. Where there is a void, there is something there, it would stand to reason. So while people might have a KM in my case to look around in, that isn’t a lot of area.
Don’t get me wrong I think geofences are a great idea and I will make sure mine protect the areas I want to protect and are big enough to blot out a lot of data, they are not a magic bullet or panacea to privacy. You still have to be cognizant of the risks and what you’re posting. If you don’t want any geolocation data shared, then maybe you should disable that in Flickr or not have your camera record the data.
The choice is yours and I’m happy that Flickr is helping us strike a nice balance in privacy as well.