Someday we'll look back on the quaint days when people put photos of themselves on the Internet with the same misty-eyed nostalgia that we currently have for the before-time when folks slept with their front doors unlocked. "It was a safer, more innocent time," we'll say. "But it was ruined forever by the NSA and Justin Timberlake."
The Web's memory is just too long. Sharing your data is fun because you get little hearts left on your photos by your friends, it's easier to keep up with people's life events, and your buddies' old inside jokes can live on forever--but so can your embarrassing photos. It's time to seriously rethink how much we put out there, since it's getting more and more clear that anything we put on the Internet will never go away.
While not quite as creepy as the NSA collecting millions of photos for a facial-recognition program, it seems that Myspace is also willing to exploit a server full of images--in this case emailing lapsed users old photos of themselves in a misguided attempt to lure those poor oversharers back to the site. Justin Timberlake is one of the owners of Myspace through investment group Specific Media, but you may have shared the photos in question when Myspace was owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., or even way back when it was a startup run by your old friend Tom Anderson.
Who's got your data?
Even though you think you're sharing your photos with friends on social media, you're really just sharing them with a database owned by a company that could eventually sell it to another company. But chances are, it's not getting deleted anytime soon--even if you try to delete your account, a site might hang onto your data for years. And you probably have some zombie accounts lurking out there that you abandoned but forgot to delete...u ntil your years-old pictures come lurching back into your inbox, courtesy of Myspace, groaning for your braaaaains.
Myspace's stunt is an attempt to get more eyeballs, and Facebook probably didn't mean to freak everyone out with its facial recognition program either--it just wanted to help you tag your friends in photos! But users still balk at these creepy tactics, and they should--no social site or service will ever take your privacy as seriously as you do. Even Snapchat, whose whole shtick is making your messages disappear had to settle with the FTC over not taking user privacy seriously enough. Deleting all your social media accounts is drastic step that's seeming more reasonable all the time.
California even passed a law compelling sites to let minors scrub their profiles of anything embarrassing that goes into effect January 1, 2015. But it's frustrating to think this problem needs legislation to solve, when it really boils down to this: People need to be more careful about what we share in the first place, and companies need to be clearer about what they are going to do with our data and how long they will keep it.
After Myspace's shenanigans, I would never go back except to delete my account. Stick to bringing sexy back, Justin, not my embarrassing photos from college.