Of the many internet trends that have come about over the past ten years or so, Facebook seems like it is going to stick around, at least for a while. After all, never has a social networking site sunk its teeth so deeply into the consciousness of general society, working its way into almost all aspects of most people’s lives. However, like so many other new technologies, it is important to take note of Facebook’s limitations along with enjoying its strengths, and one of Facebook’s biggest hidden dangers is its users’ tendency to trust the site to safely and securely store their photos online.
Why not use Facebook to store and backup your photos? Well, the first reason is one of simple preservation. Unlike other specialized data storage houses and online backup service companies, Facebook makes no promise that it will keep your data on its servers for any specific length of time. In fact, they clearly state in their terms of service that “you use it [the site] at your own risk”, making no guarantee that they will keep your photos safe at all. In addition to this, Facebook reserves the right to remove your photos and correspondences permanently from its system if they believe that you have violated their terms of service in any way. Unfortunately, they could elect to do this for any number of reasons, including if someone hacked your account and started posting material that got their attention, which is not an unheard of phenomenon in any way.
Alas, the reasons not to trust Facebook with storing your photographs do not end there. Indeed, beyond Facebook’s ability to erase your photos at any time, there is also the fact that once you have posted ANY content to Facebook it is no longer exclusively your content at all! Facebook openly explains in its terms of service that they maintain access to any and all content you post to their site, claiming “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (‘IP License’).” This is especially important if you are an artist or photographer who is considering using Facebook to advertise and sell your photos online – once you post them to Facebook, they won’t be yours anymore!
Some might point out that once you delete a photo from Facebook’s servers the license and control that they reserve over your material technically ends. However, Facebook could still have copied or chosen to do something with your photos while they were still on their site (which they, at the time, had the perfect right to do), leaving you no way to know whether or not your photos have been permanently deleted from their servers. In addition to this, there is the fact that simply deleting something off of a social networking site doesn’t mean that a copy doesn’t exist somewhere else on a backup server for an unknown amount of time, leaving your photos even more vulnerable to theft and unauthorized usage! Plus, one of the main advantages to Facebook is a user’s ability to share content with other users – who’s to say which friends have already passed around copies of your photos?
Of course, as mentioned before, the popularity of Facebook does not appear to be waning any time soon, so, for all intents and purposes, one can assume that it will be in existence for some time to come. However, we must keep in mind that trends in business and culture often take unexpected twists and turns. What if another social networking site comes along and eclipses the popularity that Facebook is currently enjoying? What if there is a scandal or another social controversy that renders Facebook far less popular than it is now? Not only could you stand to have to download and/or re-post all of your photos to another site if Facebook falls out of favor (remember MySpace?), but you could also end up losing all your photos forever if the site were to simply shut down, which Facebook reserves the right to do for any reason that they may see fit!
So, there you have it. Relying on Facebook as anything other than what it is – a social networking site – is a fool-hearty and shortsighted thing to do. Yes, Facebook is convenient and currently very popular, and thus the lure to use it as your online photo album can be extremely tempting. However, for all the reasons stated above, you would be wise to take the long view and find a reputable online backup service provider to store and maintain the safety of your photos if you do indeed want to make the best effort to back them up them online.
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