Flickr Makes Your Favorites Searchable… With No Privacy Control

Screen shot 2011-10-11 at 7.37.23 AM

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.

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9 Comments

  1. Eric Parker says:

    thanks Thomas
    I think I’ll take a look at my favourites right now – might want to unfave a few : )
    Eric

  2. Linh says:

    I suspect google will slowly roll out the ability to search your +1 or something similar. It’s just too new right now and has bigger APIs to get out the door.

  3. Ryan Lynham says:

    Hi Thomas,

    I find the privacy issue on Flickr interesting, but am actually commenting about the Google+ side of things since you mentioned it. This is a post I shared a few days ago and I’m wondering what you think. Obviously, it would be good to be able to control who sees this stuff, just like you can do with everything else on G+. Here’s what I had to say:

    Google+ Suggestion – Favorites List

    So not to be too Flickr-ish or anything, but I just +1’d +Oliver Seidel’s recent post and thought, “You know, this is one of the best photos I’ve seen on G+ in a while.” And then I realized I really have no way of seeing an easy to navigate list of all my favorite photos on G+. It would be nice to be able to add photos to favorites. I know this is exactly the same as what you can do on Flickr, but does that make it a bad feature?

    I still like the +1 concept for photos. I mean, I might like a photo and want to say, “Hey – nice photo,” even though it’s not my favorite. So I don’t want favorites to replace +1s for photos by any means!

    But wouldn’t it be nice to just have an extra tab either on your profile, or on the left of your photos view (or both) for favorites?

    And, since G+ isn’t solely for photos, you could just have a list of favorite posts, even.

    I don’t know – does anybody else think this is a good idea? A horrible idea?

  4. brad says:

    You have a serious problem if your favs get your privacy panties in a bunch…

  5. Flickr User says:

    Just so you all understand, which apparently, Thomas doesn’t, if you click on those links he provided where he says “there’s a search for that”, you’re only searching your OWN favorites. Nobody else can search YOUR favorites. They can only search through their own. They can, however, still visit your Flickr profile and view your favorites from there, but that’s not what Thomas is trying to make you believe now is it? He want’s you to hate Flickr. He wants everyone to stop using Flickr and start putting their photos on Google+. Yet, even with all this hatred toward Flickr, he STILL uses it to host his photos daily. Grow up, Thomas. Jesus Christ man. I think we’ve got it that you don’t like Flickr. Give it a rest.

  6. Thomas Hawk says:

    Oh we have an anonymous troll “Flickr User” how lovely. Actually you’ve got it wrong though. If you anyone clicks on the links above they are indeed searching *MY* favorites — not their own favorites.

    Nobody else can search YOUR favorites.

    You are 100% incorrect on that.

    He want’s you to hate Flickr. He wants everyone to stop using Flickr and start putting their photos on Google+. Yet, even with all this hatred toward Flickr, he STILL uses it to host his photos daily. Grow up, Thomas. Jesus Christ man. I think we’ve got it that you don’t like Flickr. Give it a rest.

    I don’t want anyone to hate flickr at all.

  7. Richard says:

    I’ve tried it and Thomas is correct – I can search other user’s favourites, whether I follow them or not.

  8. Sebastian says:

    Glad I stumbled on to your site. I just got my awesome new Nikon D7000 and excited about shooting photos with it. Going on a month long trip to France, Germany and Czech Republic so I’m pretty excited. I’ve been hearing some stuff about how Google+ is going to replace Flickr for photo sharing. So wondering thoughts on this? I have a Flickr account but don’t want to continue uploading my pics there. Any thoughts on this? Any advice is appreciated. I have not used Google+ but have used Flickr! Thanks in advance!

  9. UsantofsTat says:

    Hi!
    like you post: to my @oyenfvei twitter