Monday, September 28, 2020

Those images you deleted from the internet are still there, somewhere

Do you know someone who buys into the idea of posting pictures on the internet now and deleting them later, and does that person frankly believe that at the just one click the image is gone? Or is that individual you?

Reality knocks. Photos that you deleted from Facebook a month ago could still be viewed by million others now.

Research from the Cambridge University has shown that nearly half of the social networking sites do not remove pictures at the user’s request as promptly as they claim to.

The researchers surveyed 16 social networking sites, including FaceBook, Bebo, Hi5, Myspace, LiveJournal, SkyRock, Xanga, Photobucket, Orkut, Flickr, and Windows Live Space.

Social sites give users the impression that the pictures they delete are removed from the internet immediately, but what really happens is that the pictures are removed from the sites servers but remain in the Content Delivery Network (CDN). Photographs loaded onto FaceBook, for example, have URL, and the URL is fed to the CDN, when you delete your picture from the site, it will however remain lingering on some caches before it is completely removed.

The content delivery network is a caching system that directs your customers to the nearest caching server (or node).

Wikipedia defines it as a system of computers networked together across the Internet that cooperate transparently to forward stage content closer to end users, most often for the purposes of improving performance and scalability.

The research findings proved that photo sharing websites like Flickr and Google’s Picasa removed pictures immediately unlike the social sites such as Facebook and Bebo.

A Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying, “When a user deletes a photograph from Facebook it is removed from our servers immediately. However URLs to photographs may continue to exist on the content delivery network after users delete them from Facebook, until they are over written.”

He went on to state that overwriting usually happens after a “short period of time”.

The research proved that the images lingered in caches for 30 days. However, it is most likely that it could even spread during that period, making the chances of ever removing the pictures even lesser. It could have happened to you once that while you were searching for an image on the internet, you came across a few that were visible but you could not get to view it fully once you clicked on it.

This is what is referred to as “being lost in the cloud”. When something is “lost in the cloud”, there is no controlling where it ends up.

Three years ago, the family of an 18-year-old girl who died in a horrific accident went through an even more drastic experience when photos of their daughter’s accident found their way to the internet.

After having crashed her father’s Porsche Carerra, her parents were not allowed to identify the body because of the injuries she had sustained. However, the two officers in charge took her pictures, as is procedure. They, however, forwarded the pictures to other friends through e-mail.

To this day, Nikki Catsouras photos are still on the internet. The Catsouras family is still reminded of the fateful day they lost their daughter because pictures showing her mortal injuries are still stuck somewhere on the internet.

A lot of us probably enjoy posting our “fun photos” on Facebook, which is by far the widely used social site now. Facebook is reported to feature over 20 million photos on their site, with an estimate of at least each user having posted at least 200 photos on the site’s server.

Most certainly, privacy should be the last thing in your mind if you post photos of you and your friends during a drinking spree on Facebook. What one seems not to think about is what effect it will have in future.

What you see as an innocent post on Facebook would not necessarily be what a potential employer sees years down the line when he “googles” you.

That photo you posted of you and your high school lover doing the unimaginable will not be as amusing to a suitor some years later when he or she wishes to settle with you for life.

Charles Hill, a regular user of Facebook, says that he is very careful with what he does on the internet.
“I am very skeptical when it comes to posting personal content on the web in the Idea world, I would be invisible and live alone but I live with people who, by the way, don’t share the same views with me.”

He admits that, however, some of his personal photos found their way into Facebook. This he attributes to “friends”. “They were uploaded by people who think they are my friends and thought since they like me they would add me as their friend and tag pictures of me.”

Hill also pointed out that a lot of people do not understand that by posting their information on the internet it could be used by “anyone for anything.”

However, he pointed out, “The good thing at this point is I have those pictures linked to some phantom; if somebody was to track me with my name, it would be not easy to find me, so I suggest never use your real name on the net and never reveal your true identity unless it’s someone you know you can trust.”

“Some people call it paranoia, but I bet you they won’t see it that way when the DIS is on their asses,” he added.

The idea is to understand that even when Facebook, or any other site, promises that when you delete images from your pages they immediately disappear.

“Like when you delete a document from your computer, it goes to the recycle bin.”

There still are loopholes here. The trick is that until you empty your recycle bin, the “deleted” documents are still somewhere in the hard drive!

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.