Privacy on the Internet: Your Selfie is a Gold Mine for Marketers

An image of smiling friends taking selfie photo from nightclub with billiard.
An image of smiling friends taking selfie photo from nightclub with billiard.

The self-portrait you thought was private, could be used without your permission for marketing purposes.

We all love selfies. You constantly see the ones your friends take in your newsfeed and you post yours on Facebook and Twitter every chance you get. You take your self-portraits anywhere: at stores, restaurants, work, school, or the gym. You even love when your kids put their photos online, so you always press the ‘Like’ button.

There’s just one small catch, says an article from the Wall Street Journal. Several companies are now using your self-portraits for marketing purposes. They look for ones where you’re holding a clearly identifiable product, such as a Starbucks cup, or wearing a noticeable logo. And they prefer photos where you’re smiling, because it implies that you feel good about the things you’re wearing, holding, or consuming. Even the background is useful, since it shows these companies where and how you like to use their products.

Basically, this pictorial information is a treasure trove for market researchers. They can base new campaigns on the context in which their products are being used, and even send targeted ads to you specifically. Your selfie isn’t just a form of self-expression — it’s a promotion.

The privacy controls on Facebook generally prevent picture mining companies from using the images you post there. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, or Pinterest. Pictures on those sites become grist for the marketing mill.

There are no clear laws to protect you against misuse of your photos, so about all you can do is write to the offending sites to express your displeasure. In the meantime, putting your selfies only on Facebook can offer you some measure of privacy. You can also encourage your kids, friends, and relatives to do the same.

Find out more information about improving your privacy on the Internet, please contact us. We will be happy to answer your questions and help you any way we can with this process.