Flickr’s New “Friend Finder” Feature

Flickr's New Friend Finder: Data Portability or Privacy Violation? – ReadWriteWeb

Marshall Kirkpatrick has a blog post out on Flickr’s new “Friend Finder” feature where he asks the question whether or not the new feature represents data portability or privacy violation.

The feature basically allows you to give Flickr access to your Gmail, Yahoo! Mail or Hotmail account and identifies people based on their email address on Flickr that you might want to add as contacts. The idea is that if you have someone’s email address in your address book, you may also want to follow their photographs on Flickr.

Personally I don’t see this as much of a privacy violation at all. Flickr has had an email search tool for a long time. Many other sites do as well. But finding someone on Flickr really isn’t that hard even without an email address. All you really need to do most of the time is just put someone’s name in quotes with the term flickr next to it and most search engines pretty quickly find the person’s flickrstream.

For instance, a search for “Thomas Hawk” flickr on Google turns up this. You can search for “Marshall Kirkpatrick” and flickr and get back this. Not terribly hard to find whether you have my email address or not.

This type of functionality while being new to Flickr officially perhaps is not really new at all. Back in 2006 I blogged about an application using the Flickr API called Stalkr. Basically Stalkr pretty much provided the same sort of functionality. With Stalkr you entered in your friend’s email addresses (or you could also upload a csv file of addressses) and Stalkr returned the Flickr accounts.

Stalkr later changed their name to “Flickr Friends” after Flickr balked at their name and cut off their API access. You can try out Flickr Friends here.

Some people still might cringe at this type of functionality though worrying that they don’t want just anyone with their email address to see their Flickr photos. My advice to these people *don’t put your public photos up on Flickr.*. Seriously, if you are that concerned about who might see your photos why in the heck are you putting public photos on Flickr in the first place? At a minimum you might want to consider making your photos private for view by friends/family only.