Facebook photo 'Armageddon'
Facebook's latest feature has social network experts forecasting online Armageddon for photo privacy, concerned that users are allowing the new photo sync capability without knowing what they're using.
Facebook App users will soon be asked whether they want to 'get started' using the new feature.
Lecturer of Internet Studies at Curtin University Dr Tama Leaver says there are reasons for concern.
"We have a nasty tendency to click on things and try them without knowing what they do," he said.
It does mean that we're often giving away the rights to our own private information and sharing it with a company who might look like a communication tool but at the end of the day they're a corporate and their job is to try and figure out how to make money by using the private data that we share."
With the recent purchase of Instagram the directors of Facebook are clearly well aware of the snowballing popularity of photo sharing, and photo sync takes picture sharing to an all new level.
By turning on the feature you enable automatic syncing, which means the 20 most recent photos taken on your smartphone are uploaded to Facebook - and then every photo you take after that.
The photos are not automatically made public, they sit in a new private storage centre similar to Mac's iCloud where you can go through and select which photo's your followers can see.
What's raised concerns though is the fact that anything you upload, regardless of whether your friends can see it or not, is then property of Facebook.
And it's not just the photo that they own, but also all the data that relates to it.
Dr Leaver says it records your location, places nearby, the date time and even who's in the photo.
"It will record the exact geographic co-ordinates of where you stand when you take the photo," he said.
"Then there are the things that Facebook engineers can say but we can't; like advanced facial recognition that helps them really clearly work out who's in it so they can access their information.
"So that's an awful lot of data being generated when you just hit the little camera icon."
A spokesperson for Facebook released a statement last week saying they will "only utilise photo data after users decide to share them to Facebook".
However, Dr Leaver says that's not an adequate safeguard.
"It's happened in the past so it's not inconceivable that six months after we all start using this synchronisation tool and are really enjoying it suddenly it stop going into our hidden account and starts going straight into our timeline or something like that," he said.
"So there are definitely things to worry about and we will definitely have to be attentive if Facebook start to change their settings again.
It wouldn't be the first time Facebook has been caught out for leaking user data accidentally, with popular apps like Farmville selling on user identifications to advertising networks in the past.
With the permanency of online data, Dr Leaver advises users to approach with caution.
"I think everyone has to make an educated decision and I think you need to understand how it works before you turn it on," he said.
"Personally I wouldn't be using it.
"I do upload photos to Facebook and I'm quite happy to save them on my phone and decide which ones I want to upload from there, I think that's probably a safer way to avoid problems in the future.
Sydney Morning Herald