Home Flickr Nails Photo Privacy With New Geofence Feature

Flickr Nails Photo Privacy With New Geofence Feature

Flickr will announce a new feature this morning called Geofences, forward- and backward-looking place-specific privacy settings for the location data of the geotagged photos you upload. The feature is live right now and is really well implemented – this is something that every social network ought to enable.

Geofencing is a term typically used to refer to the drawing of a line on a map where some kind of pre-determined action is triggered, it’s most established in the business of transporting goods in trucks and triggering tracking actions when those trucks enter into certain geographic zones. Flickr’s new privacy geofences are something everyone is likely to enjoy using though. I, for example, have already set up a geofence around my house prohibiting anyone but my approved contacts from seeing the photos I upload from home. Thanks, Flickr! Update: Turns out I got that wrong, the photos are subject to my previous privacy setting – it’s just the location of my house that’s now more private due to the geofence. That’s cool too!

The Flickr implementation of this feature lets you search for a spot on a map, then determine how big the area you want to refer to is, set the particular privacy setting for that zone apart from your account-wide default setting, then name the geofenced area. You can then choose whether or not to apply this new privacy setting to all the photos you’ve uploaded from that location in the past. Update: As commenters graciously pointed out, I misunderstood this announcement a bit – it’s actually the location of the photo that is subjected to a new privacy setting, not the photo itself. Good to know, effect is similar but a little different. I thought this was like Google Plus or Facebook privacy settings – it turns out it’s not quite the same.

Flickr says it has 300 million geotagged photos uploaded to its databases already. This is the kind of feature that could really help more people feel comfortable geotagging their photos. Facebook really ought to enable this feature as well.

Right: Where did I eat this wonderful dinner of grilled asparagus with shallot pepper and salmon? None of your business, unless you’re a member of my friends and family group!

Heck, Twitter and everyone else ought to do this. I don’t geotag my Tweets because so many of them are posted from home and my exact address gets transmitted to all my followers. Dear Twitter, would you please set up a feature like this and let me draw circles within which I would like my location obscured to the neighborhood level? Please? Almost two years since launching, Twitter’s location feature has been a big disappointment relative to its potential and I can’t help but think that the lack of clear controls for users is a big part of that.

There was a time when concepts like this might have felt super-geeky, or not of general interest to a lot of people. With the rise of smartphones and the growing sophistication of users, I think that time may well have passed.

You can visit this page on Flickr to try setting up some geofences for yourself. The official announcement just went up here.

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