At the weekend, Slashdot highlighted a Harvard Law Review piece on photos, privacy and the Internet; wondering about the position of ‘tagging’ on Facebook and other services. (I’ve dealt with this issue before here, indirectly.

How this works is:

Person A has a facebook account and is friends with Person B
Person B takes photos at a party and Person A is in one of them.
Person B posts the photos on his profile and marks the relevant photo as being one of Person A.
Person A’s profile automatically includes a link to the photo on Person B’s page, and Person A’s friends all get a note on their page (in their newsfeed) about the photo.

Of course, there are privacy settings to prevent this. I have my settings up high, and I manually remove tags of me (which you can do). They are just mundane photographs, but I’m not a fan of the feature. The Drunken Pirate fuss (where a student was denied entry to the teaching profession on the back of a photo of her apparently breaking alcohol laws posted by a friend (or ex-friend perhaps?) shows what can happen, though, even if you protect your own privacy. Of course, there are laws and there are practical things if you are worried about being photographed – the culture shift, though, is the important thing. It is the ability and the acceptance that photos taken of you at a party are marked and circulated (and in the case of many Facebook users, ‘pushed’ to your friends unless you prevent it through a series of settings changes) that is interesting, and loaded with potential conflicts. (Unfortunately, many of the responses on /. were along the lines of ‘don’t put photos of yourself on the Internet if you want privacy’ – true, but not the issue here).

In this regard, I was delighted to read Davin O’Dwyer’s column on social networking (and being a Facebook refusnik) in Saturday’s Irish Times. Davin (who was a couple of years ahead of me at college, and is an up-and-coming journalist) studied both English and Multimedia (separately) and therefore is coming at this from a range of perspectives – so to see him arguing (in a way) against the gee-whiz of it all is useful, and worth taking seriously.