Compromising Photos in a Digital Era

by | Oct 12, 2022 | Change, ICT4D |


One of the great aspects of digital transformation is speed. However, it is also one of the riskiest aspects too.

Growing up, Mom and Dad took photos of our family experiences. This was back in the day of film, so we never knew if the photos ‘turned out ok’ until they were ‘developed’ into a physical photograph that you could hold. Over the years, Mom took some of the photos into albums, which are now part of our family history. It is a wonderful thing to be able to show our kids now, who their Grandma was and some of the adventures we had.

Digital has transformed photography making it photo taking cheap and instanteous. And made it super easy to share them. To see the family albums my Mom created, you need to visit my Dad in Canada. To see the photo I took this morning, I could send it to you or put it on a website.

In general the transformation of speed and ease of sharing is positive. The risk is introduced (perhaps) or at least compounded, but the loss of control.

Our family photographs are at my Dad’s house. To see them, not only do you need to go to Canada, but he needs to let you in to his house and give you access to the albums. And when you leave, the albums remain at his house. Unless, of course, you steal them, but then you could be arrested and so on.

However, if I send you a digital photograph by email, I have no control over whether or not you send the photograph on to others. Not just show others, but send it to them. Or if I put the photo on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok or some other platform, I can’t control who sees and shares it. In fact, with most platforms, when I post it on them, I am giving over ownership of the photo to the platform. Therefore, they can use it, share it however they wish.

For the most part, we are ok with this. This is how the world works now. However, how do our feelings change, when the photo is one of us in a compromising position? One where we are doing something we are not proud of? Or one where we are at a low point in our lives? When we lose control of that photo, it may feel different.

And now, take it to the aid and charity world. Charities throughout the world use photographs of people to raise funds to help the people in need. Perhaps we ask for consent to take the photo, but it’s hard to understand what you are consenting to. And then photos of children, adults, often at low points in their lives are spread all over the internet for years on end. If it was you or a child you love, would you be happy with it?

Photo by Markus Spiske

1 Comment

  1. Toebs

    Gotcha old friend


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