McAfee’s Social Protection Plug-in for Photos Is Almost the Privacy Control of Our Dreams

By Devon Glenn 

The company known for its virus protection software for PCs is now addressing one of social media’s greatest afflictions: improper use of personal photos.  McAfee and Intel will unveil the McAfee Social Protection Facebook plug-in at the end of August. But does it go far enough?

With the Social Protection plug-in, Facebook users can select which friends have access to their photos and make the pictures appear blurry to everyone else. No one will be able to download, take a screen capture, or otherwise use the photos without permission, even people on the “approved” list.

In addition, facial recognition software will tell users when they are about to be tagged in a picture so that they can decide whether to allow the picture on their walls or to throw a tantrum, according to Mashable. The plug-in will work with  Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome on PCs when it launches; Mac, iOS and Android versions will be available by the end of the year.

The demo video shows an alarming photo-sharing scenario that Social Protection is designed to prevent. In it, a young woman’s image is pirated by strangers and repurposed as a sexy Internet meme.

After she installs Social Protection, the pirate gets a warning message when he tries to copy the picture to his desktop.

This type of abuse is a valid concern. In 2011, a startup called stirred controversy for swiping 1 million profile pictures from Facebook, keeping 250,000 beautiful faces to feature on their site without permission.

But identity thieves and people who take personal pictures outside Facebook’s password-protected walls are only part of the problem. The worst offenders are much closer to the homepage. Friends, relatives, and acquaintances post inappropriate or unflattering pictures of each other all the time without asking.

There is currently no way to stop people from doing it other than to send a note that says, “Hi, I’m neurotic and I hate this picture you stealthily took of me with my stomach sticking out. What were you thinking? Will you please take it down?” Who wants to send that message? It’s awkward.

Worse, if a picture is inappropriate to the point where a note is completely justified (i.e. My underwear is showing in that picture and I just added my boss to my friends list), by the time you remove it, the damage will have already been done. Even if you “untag” yourself, the picture still exists. Hundreds of your friends’ friends will have seen it on their  timelines, many of whom are likely your friends as well. And even if you do request that a picture be taken down, the person could just ignore you and put it up, anyway.

The Social Protection app is a good start. Hopefully, someone will use facial recognition technology to save us all from photo fatigue and prevent unwanted photos from being posted online at all. Something more like this:

The image above was edited and is not a real feature of McAfee’s Social Protection plug-in. Featured image by Petunyia via Shutterstock.