Websites retain photos deleted by users

May 21st, 2009 - 8:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Facebook London, May 21 (IANS) Social networking and photo-sharing websites retain photographs deleted by users, reveals research by Cambridge University.
Researchers uploaded photos on 16 popular websites - including Facebook, Yahoo’s Flickr and Google’s Picasa - noting the web addresses where the images were stored and then deleted them.

The team said it was able to find them on seven sites, including Facebook, using the direct addresses even after the photos appeared to have gone, BBC reported Thursday.

Facebook, however, says deleted photos are removed from its servers “immediately”.

To perform their experiment, the researchers uploaded photos to each of the sites, then deleted them, but kept a note of direct URLs to the photos from the sites’ content delivery networks.

When they checked 30 days later, these links continued to work for seven of the sites even though a typical user might think the photos had been removed.

Joseph Bonneau, one of the PhD students who carried out the study, said: “This demonstrates how social networking sites often take a lazy approach to user privacy, doing what’s simpler rather than what is correct.

“It’s imperative to view privacy as a design constraint, not a legal add-on.”

The Cambridge University researchers said sites such as Flickr, Picasa did better and Microsoft’s Windows Live Spaces removed the photos instantly.

But a Facebook spokesman defended the company’s approach 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 overwritten. Overwriting usually happens after a short period of time.”

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