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Can a picture steal your soul? Or your privacy?

by Molina

The religious belief that a photograph can steal a soul, imprisoning it within its amalgam of polyester, celluloid, and gelatin is probably still shared by many cultures across the globe. Today, there is a new reason to avoid your picture from being taken, a motive where only technology could be found guilty, and this reason is privacy.
A couple of days ago I participated in a debate where we were pushing a friend into getting an account on the most popular social networking site, and he brought up a point which I find quite interesting. It is clear that with the emergence of Web 2.0 companies have lost control of what it is being said about their brand and customers are now in complete control. Now it appears the effect has also reached the regular consumer and, you guessed right, I’m talking about the control you have over your own privacy.

My friend is definitely concerned about his privacy, which is respectable; he wants to tell who he wants, when he wants about his whereabouts, and therefore he refuses to get a Facebook account. Well, long story short, he was recently asked by an acquaintance about an event he attended, with a line that made it clear, “Hey, how was the wedding you attended? I saw you on John’s Facebook album.” And yes, you are right, of course he was not tagged, he only appeared in a medium shared by thousands, where now you must depend on how privately your friends treat their pictures.

Web 2.0, the participatory web, has changed not only how companies have to establish a dialog with thousands of people talking back to (or behind the back of) of the company, but also how regular people are being “exposed” by the openness of the web. You can control your privacy settings, you can control your group of social network contacts, but definitely there is no way you can control how others treat the pictures where you appear. There was a time when people said, “No pictures, I don’t want my soul stolen”. Today you might have to say, “no pictures, I don’t want my privacy stolen.” As Michael Wesh once put it in his famous video, The Machine is Using Us, “we’ll have to rethink a few things, and privacy is one of them”. The question that remains unanswered is… what do you think?