Facebook photo syncing sparks new privacy concerns

WINNIPEG – If you love to snap photos with your smartphone, Facebook is trying to make it easier to share those pictures.

But some users are warning that private images are appearing on the social networking site without their knowledge.

A Facebook feature launched last year allows users to automatically link the pictures on their phones with the social media network.

In a question and answer section of the website, Facebook says the photos are then kept in a private folder until the user decides to make them public.

The offering is supposed to be opt-in. But Winnipegger Adam Carroll says he didn’t have a choice.

“Personal photos that I have decided not to share were uploaded without my permission,” said Carroll. “I thought it was strange that I wasn’t asked if they were allowed to do that.”

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He noticed what happened on Monday and turned to Facebook to warn other users to check their settings.

“I got a notification saying your photos were synced and I wasn’t sure what that meant,” said Carroll. “I looked into it and all of my photos from my phone had been synced to my Facebook account.”

Users are supposed to be able to turn the service on themselves under the photo tab.

Legal experts say people should think twice before agreeing to let Facebook automatically upload their pictures.

“Yes you do get the convenience of not having to go that extra step, but is that convenience when you lose the ability to decided on a picture by picture basis if that is something you actually want uploaded?” said Andrew Buck, an associate with Pitblado Law.

Even though people own the rights to a photo on Facebook, the website actually has significant control over the image, Buck said.

“Facebook can use those photos for purposes it deems fit, including commercial purposes — so making money, things like that,” he said.

Buck questions just how secure the private folder that the pictures are uploaded in is.

“It is important to know that Facebook has the ability to change its terms and conditions at any time and in fact has done that so. What that could means is your private folder today becomes a public folder today,” Buck said.

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A Facebook spokesperson tells Global News  the photo syncing app is opt-in.

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