The Importance of Owning Your Own Photos

By Chris Desmond, MemoryWeb Co-founder

You may have heard about Facebook’s plan to delete privately synced photos on July 7, 2016 unless you start using the Moments app or download these photos to your computer.

Many Facebook users didn’t even know that the private photo syncing feature existed in the first place. Others expressed mild indifference or weary acceptance. Some were irate at being forced into using the Moments app. For more details, read this article from Gizmodo.

While this drastic measure may not affect all Facebook users, myself included, it still gives me pause.

Thinking about the bigger picture here, I don’t like the underlying message that Facebook can control what happens to my photos. Like so many other folks, I have years of photo history sitting in my account. Many of these images no longer exist elsewhere.

Who’s to say that photos I shared publicly on Facebook aren’t next on the chopping block? Or that my photos will be synced to yet another app without my permission? Plus, who else might be getting access to my photo data, friend list and app usage habits without my explicit permission? Can I even get ALL of my photos out of Facebook if I wanted to?

So I did an experiment. . .

I don’t have any privately synced photos, but I do have plenty of pictures I uploaded publicly on my Facebook account. Some are also on my timeline because they were tagged to me.

I wanted to see what comes out of Facebook when I export. This is actually pretty simple to do. Just go to your Facebook account settings and click the link at the bottom that says: Download a copy of your Facebook data.

According to the site, the info and files I would get include:

  • Posts, photos and videos you've shared
  • Your messages and chat conversations
  • Info from the About section of your profile
  • And more

The ins and outputs of Facebook: a not-so-complete download

And out my stuff came, via a link sent to my email that allowed me to start the download. The link is also only good for a few days, which I thought was a nice security measure. Hats off to Facebook for that.

While it was certainly cool to see all the history that was exported in various formats, the one thing that really hit home was that metadata like GPS location was stripped out of my photo files. And the real date my photos were taken had been replaced with the download date.

(above photo montage courtesy of my brother Zach)

It seems like metadata gets unhinged even as the original photo is uploaded to Facebook. First, the date created is not displayed. Instead Facebook shows the date the photo was uploaded.

Next, the original GPS info appears to be discarded or ignored. Instead you are given the option to tag the photo to a location nearby the place you are at when uploading your photo. Facebook’s search feature for that is great, but I still find it disappointing that the original location I had in my photo file isn’t used (or preserved).

Another big bummer was that all the photos I had been tagged in by other people were not in my export. While I certainly don’t “own” those photos, I had been hoping they would export with the other things that had become part of my timeline.

Downloading from Facebook doesn’t seem like a full win-win for me or for users whose privately synced photos will be deleted on July 7, 2016.

In theory, it’s great to be able to get at least my own stuff back from Facebook, but my photos seem sadly bereft of meaning and context when the original details are removed.

Since I’m not guaranteed full ownership and control of my images and data on Facebook or most other social media platforms, I’m glad I’ve never counted on them for long-term photo backup. And that’s one of the main reasons why we built MemoryWeb.

How MemoryWeb is different from Facebook and other photo platforms

We believe that you should own your stuff, in and outside our platform. That's why we made sure that you can get ALL your photos and tags out of MemoryWeb, whether you created the data or we did it for you.

Each picture can be exported with this information WITHIN the photo:

  • Created date (the real one)
  • Location (we'll keep the GPS gobbledegook and also turn that into addresses you'll understand)
  • People (anyone you tagged yourself or we helped identify via facial recognition)
  • Collection names (ones you added and ones we created for you)
  • Captions

And yes, you can IMPORT photos and details from Facebook and other social/storage platforms (as well as your computer and devices) into MemoryWeb. If you are affected by the private photo deletion from Facebook and are looking for a better option for preserving these long-term, check us out.