Flickr Makes Your Favorites Searchable… With No Privacy Control
At 4:25 a.m. this morning Flickr tweeted that they’ve turned on searching within everyone’s favorites. What this means is that everything that you’ve favorited at Flickr has now become much more public than you might want.
Publicizing your favorites has been a hot button at flickr for a while. There have been several threads over the years in the help forum where users have asked to have the ability to make their favorites private. Some users have suggested that Rosie O’Donnell, as a celebrity, has been given a special ability to hide her favorites, but it could just be that she’s never faved anything and that the “Rosie O’Donnell doesn’t have any favorites available to you.” isn’t the best language there. I’ve reached out to Flickr for clarification on that and will update on that when I hear back. [EDIT I heard back from flickr who confirmed that no accounts have a special ability to hide their favorites]
In the past Flickr has said that making your favorites private is not part of the “photo sharing ethos” at flickr and at present there is no way keep these private. But by allowing anyone in the public to now *search* your favorites it now gives people even more control over monitoring your favoriting activity on flickr. I have over 100,000 photos that I’ve favorited on flickr over the past 7 years. Now people have much more granular ways to go through these than paging through 1,396 pages one by one.
Are you favoriting too many photos tagged “self portraits” of a certain “friend?” There’s now a search for that. Have you ever favorited anything tagged “boobs?” There’s now a search for that. Have you ever favorited anything tagged “drugs” OR “pot” OR “marijuana?” There’s now a search for that.
It’s interesting that by contrast, when you a +1 a photo on Google+ it’s not made public beyond the +1 that appears on the photo itself. In fact you can’t even share your +1’d photos on Google if you want to.
Personally I think that flickr should have privacy controls on your favorites. They could make them public by default but allow users the option to restrict their favorites to the rest of their world, or to limit their sharing to their friends/family.
There is a seedy side to why flickr might not allow people the ability to have private favorites and that could be to discourage people from collecting porn favorites or favorites of kid photos — both of which happen at flickr. By forcing people to be public about their favorites, this might make someone hesitate before favoriting something that their spouse or coworker might be able to see.
On the other hand it’s pretty well known that people use bogus accounts for this sort of activity at flickr anyways. It’s not hard or uncommon for users to have a second anonymous free flickr “porn” account. There is a pretty heavy underground flickr porn world that is kept pretty well hidden unless you really know your way around the site well.
Google+, by the way, simply doesn’t allow nudity on the site — which is a whole other conversation.