Sure, posting your photos to Facebook is great, but what if you don't want them viewed except by certain people? Intel and McAfee have come up with a solution.
It's called Social Protection, and it's a new browser plug-in/Facebook app that prevents your photos from ending up in embarrassing or otherwise unwanted places. McAfee is describing it as personal digital rights management for your photos.
Friends Need Viewer
Once you've installed it and restarted your browser, the app pixelates photos posted to Facebook, and, to view the photos in normal mode, your friends need to install the app's photo viewer. Without the viewer, the protected photo remains encrypted, and cannot be downloaded, copied, printed, or even screen-captured. Additionally, the photos are stored on Intel's servers, not Facebook's.
For those friends who want to see your photos, the viewer will be free. McAfee said it hasn't yet determined if it will charge for the app that pixelates your photos, or if the app will be merged with another, already existing product.
In Facebook News Feeds, for instance, your friends will see the McAfee logo and a thumbnail of a generic blurred image instead of your photo. Next to it will be a link saying that you invite the user to "see protected photos" in such-and-such album.
Social Protection will be out by the end of August in a public beta. It works with Internet Explorer 8 and above, and Firefox 8 and above. McAfee said it is releasing the product as a beta so that it can gauge whether people actually want to use it.
A Facebook user could, of course, manage privacy settings on the site so that non-friends will not have access to your photos. But there's the problem that your so-called friends could share your photos with anyone.
One Possible Use?
Social Protection will also have the ability to identify you in untagged photos, so you'll be able to find out about all those untagged photos that have you in less-than-flattering positions and situations. The app will let you contact said acquaintances to request or demand that the offending photo be removed -- or you can really escalate and report it to the brass at Facebook.
Intel is involved, because it is McAfee's owner, and most of the development work was done by Intel's software and services group in Argentina.
One area where the new app could have some use, if it became widely used, could be protecting images from the prying eyes of would-be employers.
For instance, earlier this year the Boston Globe ran a story about companies that ask for Facebook usernames and passwords as part of the interview process, so they can check the private profile page.
It cited a New York City statistician who refused to provide the login information to an interviewer, and another case of a security guard who was similarly asked for his login during a reinstatement interview with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, after he returned from a leave of absence.
The practice by those employers and others have resulted in a variety of complaints by the American Civil Liberties Union and others. It could also point to a possible market for McAfee's photo protection app. Even if the username and password was turned over to a potential employer, that wild photo at last year's New Year's Eve party could remain under wraps.