The shot of you and your BFF at the ball game was fun. You and your kids at the company picnic. And who wouldn’t love to see all of your bicycle club at the finish of the Century Race? While seemingly harmless, each of these photos is likely building the database on you, as data mining selfies has now become a lucrative marketing effort.
A new group of digital marketing companies have built technology to scan and process your photos for insights that can better target advertisers to you and your hobbies. The technology may search for brands you are associated with, locations of where you like to spend time, or even specific types of accessories might be in the shot with you. Then that data is paired with what is known about you to better target what ad you see online.
These companies, including Piqora and Ditto Labs, gain access to the photos you post publicly on social media sites, given access in the hope the information will ultimately drive more ad dollars to the site. Yes, these rights were likely granted when you accepted the site’s terms of service. Without knowing it, you have become a spokesperson for the brands you associate with.
Instagram, Flickr and Pinterest all claim to inform users that all posted public content can be shared with partners. Private photos are supposedly protected. And while consumer groups are concerned, there are no federal or state laws to prohibit the practices.
Jules Polonetsky, the director of Future of Privacy Forum, a group funded partially by Facebook, said users should assume that companies are scanning sites for market research if their photos are publicly viewable. I guess that summarizes the future of privacy.
The founder of Ditto Labs, David Rose, believes photo-sharing sites should do more to educate and warn their customers. I believe that is called passing the buck.
If you are a frequent poster of images, beware. Uninformed consumers are again being exploited.
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