Can image metadata be owned?
The answer is yes. However, the ownership of metadata depends on 2 things:
- Location of the image.
When you take a photo with your digital camera, all the internal metadata stored in your SD card is yours and yours alone, as long as it is offline. As the photographer of the image, you hold the copyright to it and all associated data.
Storing Content Online?
Often, once an image is moved to a social platform or photo sharing website, you may relinquish the rights to that data and hand it over to that social platform. The conditions around the ownership of the data and how it will be used depends on the social platform’s data policies.
Example: Companies like Facebook or Flickr often collect activities or information that you post to the platform, causing this data to become their property. This information, including personal details, faces, locations, and search history, is shared with partners and advertisers for various products and services. (facebook.com/policy.php, April 19, 2018). Meanwhile, Flickr, which is still used by many schools to share photos and videos, has a data policy similar to that of Facebook. Flickr owns all the media that you place on to the site, and if your photos and their associated metadata are made public on the site, then any user will be able to access and download the content. (flickr.com/help/privacy, April 20, 2018)
Where to Share?
Today, data is a valuable asset, and making it available publicly can be an enormous compromise for you and the people close to you. For this reason, it is important to pay attention to where you host and share personally identifiable information such as photos and videos – indicating where you have been, who was with you, and what organizations you are associated with. A lot can be harnessed from just one photograph. (See What is Metadata.)
For schools, in particular, make sure that you are centralizing your media in a private and secure way, and consider putting policies in place that encourage your community to do the same. By doing so, not only are you protecting everyone’s image metadata, but also promoting media literacy and creating a responsible culture and environment for families year after year.
New York Times’ Privacy Project.
Originally written by Drew Millikin 2019