Facebook Photo Sync: Nine things you should know

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Privacy

Facebook icon. Image from ShutterstockFacebook has introduced a new feature for iPhone, iPad and Android users which means you can automatically sync any photos you take on your mobile device with your Facebook account.

This removes the nuisance of having to manually choose which photos to upload.

Here are nine things you should know about Facebook Photo Syncing:

  1. You have to opt-in to Facebook Photo Sync. Facebook hasn't turned it on by default. Chances are that your first knowledge of it will be when you access Facebook on your iOS or Android device, and are encouraged to "Get started".

    sync

    It's good that Facebook has decided to make users consciously opt-in to this service. There would have been a loud out-cry if they hadn't.

  2. If you enable the feature, your last 20 photographs and every subsequent photo you take, will be automatically uploaded in the background to a private Facebook album. So you may want to check what photos you have already taken first.
  3. The photos that you have synced from your phone are not visible to any other Facebook users. When you view your synced photos, you can choose then to share them on your Facebook timeline or send them as a message to a friend.
  4. If you're worried that Facebook Photo Sync will eat into your data plan, you can tell Facebook to only sync when you are on Wi-Fi rather than via your cellular network.

    Facebook photo sync

    (Note that Facebook says it will sync photos at a smaller size - approximately 100KB - when you use a 3G or 4G network)

  5. Facebook says it won't sync your photos when battery levels are "low".
  6. Automatic uploading of every photo you take means every photo you take. Yes, including the ones you took for that guy you're flirting with, or the one you snapped of that part of your body you can't quite see properly with a mirror.

    iPhone camera

    Furthermore, if someone takes a photograph of you without your permission it will be automatically uploaded to Facebook - you may demand that they delete the photo off their phone, but will it also have been removed from their private Facebook album?

  7. Every photograph synced from your phone will be able to be mined for information by Facebook.

    Photos taken on mobile devices can include meta data such as the location where the photo was taken - and this could be used to determine where you are, and help Facebook display localised advertising.

    Facial recognitionFurthermore, Facebook could integrate its facial recognition technology with Photo Sync, analyse your photos to see whose faces it recognises and automatically tag their names.

    Over time a comprehensive database of where you have been, and who with, is built up.

  8. If you opt-in to Facebook Photo Sync, you are no longer in charge of what photos you upload to Facebook. In the past, you could decide what images you uploaded to the social network, and which pictures it could analyse for its own purposes.

    Now, all photos - good and bad - will be available to Facebook. That doesn't mean anyone apart from you and Facebook's servers will be able to see them, but there's clearly a reduction in your level of control.

  9. You can disable Facebook Photo Sync by following these instructions.

You can learn more about Facebook's new Photo Sync feature by visiting its official help pages.

If you are on Facebook and want to keep yourself informed about the latest news from the world of internet security and privacy, join the Sophos Facebook page where more than 200,000 people regularly discuss these issues and best practice.

Facebook icon image from Shutterstock.

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27 Responses to Facebook Photo Sync: Nine things you should know

  1. Kris · 507 days ago

    Ive noticed that facebook show a message saying friends of yours are using this, even when they are not... i know cos my name was being shown to my friends and i'm deaf not using it... naughty facebook!

  2. Mark · 507 days ago

    Yet another, on a very, very long list of reasons NOT to use Facebook.

  3. Oh jeez what a terrible idea. Who on earth would want every single one of their pictures auto-synced?

  4. This opens up another Pandora's Box if I ever saw one. I saw this feature while on FB the other day and I hurried to cancel it.

  5. Eric · 507 days ago

    Just another reminder that Facebook users aren't the customers, they're the product.

  6. Neil J. Rubenking · 507 days ago

    I use the iPhone camera for all kinds of things. Snap the grocery list that's written on the whiteboard. Reach behind the desktop computer and snap its serial number. Or I'll take three pics of a scene from different angles and choose the best one to upload. Even without the significant privacy issues, I wouldn't (and didn't) allow this feature.

    • Hi Neil

      Yes, I used my smartphone to take a snap of the inaccessible serial number on the back of a TV before. I can't imagine why I would want that uploaded to an (admittedly) private album on Facebook either.

  7. Nigel · 507 days ago

    Once again Facebook performs the valuable service of providing yet another intelligence test. In this case, anyone who enables Facebook Photo Sync is clearly an idiot.

  8. Doug · 506 days ago

    I've suggested that people send feedback to FB, particularly about the deceptive messaging, from the bottom of this page: https://m.facebook.com/help/photosync.

    Note that it isn't and-and-out lie: "Graham Cluely shares photos on Facebook" is undoubtedly true, but that is a long way from automatically uploading all his pictures to Facebook!

  9. It's interesting that Google offered this feature from day one with very little comment. It seems that, rightly or wrongly, many people don't trust Facebook. On the face of it, this new feature does no more than the Google version.

  10. I recently got a google account it has the same feature, and just managed to stop some slightly embarrassing photos appearing, thanks for the heads up,don't want to make the same mistake again.

  11. JCD · 506 days ago

    In case it has slipped the author's or anyone else's knowledge, the Google+ and Dropbox apps on iDevices have been able to do this for a while.

    • You're quite correct.

      One interesting difference, however.

      Dropbox doesn't incorporate facial recognition technology and has never shown any interest - as far as I'm aware - in gathering that kind of data about its users.

      Google+ can do facial recognition, but you have to consciously opt-in to it. Which is how it should be.

      Facebook does facial recognition of your pics and, as we explain at http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2012/06/19/disabl... - you can't disable it. Well, unless you live in Europe where FB has been pressured to disable the feature by regulators.

      I'm not saying that Facebook Photo Sync is a bad thing. Indeed there are aspects of the technology which Facebook seems to have implemented quite sensibly. But I think it's right for people to hear the benefits and the potential drawbacks, so they can make their own mind up about whether they wish to enable the feature or not.

      • Yup, there are aspects of this tech that are VERY useful. Snapping the inaccessible back of your TV and then having that pic auto-synch to your PC so you can read the serial number via a decent-sized screen, say. Or having your photos saved in case anything happens to your phone. Or in some cases being able to recover a stolen device because the thief took photos with it and they synched to your account.

        But yes, Facebook does complicate the issue somewhat! Let's just say I said no to FB's kind offer, and will be sticking with Dropbox for my photo synchin g. (-:

      • tom · 332 days ago

        Europe is starting to sound like a better place to live haha. They ban fb facial recognition and also GMOs in food... Seems like they care more about their peoples safety and freedom

  12. Oohh look.
    Another lovely espionage tool for stalkers, data-miners and advertisers.

    How kind of them. [/sarcasm]

  13. Kim · 506 days ago

    So which photos get uploaded exactly? The photos you take using the phone's main camera app, or the ones you take when you select the "photo" option on the Facebook app? If the latter, then at least you'll be aware that if you're in the Facebook app and taking a photo, then it will be uploaded. Facebook's poor help pages don't seem to clarify this at all.

  14. Scott · 505 days ago

    You can delete any photo that is synced to FB. I am not saying that FB will or will not keep a copy. But, just letting people know that you can delete them by going to photos >sync and tapping (on your phone) or clicking (from your PC) and delete.

  15. ≎ The 10th thing is old news, but relevant: Facebook believes it has unlimited rights to use any photo uploaded to their system, for any purpose.

    All my photos go to flickr (where I can choose from a variety of copyright licenses), and I link some of them to Facebook. 9They claim they have rights to the thumbnail, but my flickr upload establishes my copyright.)

  16. Wow! Now,it's much easier to upload photos to facebook! Thanks for the full guide :)

  17. Erwals · 499 days ago

    Many features of Facebook are absurd. I wish I could slap FB owners sometimes. Their VPNS, Privacy, and many other networking scenarios are not suitable and appropriate.

  18. If I delete my photos synced with Facebook on my phone, Facebook will delete them too?

    • Linda · 236 days ago

      No you have to manually go out and delete them on facebook.

  19. john hennessy · 294 days ago

    hi Graham if i save a photo that somebody else sent me will that sync to facebook. and also if i delete a facebook pic on my laptop does it go into the recycle bin. look forward to your reply. thanks

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About the author

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, and veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.