Feeds

Undead deleted photos linger on social networking websites

We're coming to embarrass you, Barbara!

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

That embarrassing party shot of you and that hot dog may still come back to haunt you - photos posted on social networking websites can often be easily viewed even after users attempt to delete them, according to a study by security researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Researchers posted photos on 16 social networking and Web 2.0 websites, keeping a careful record of the URL associated with the photos, before deleting the images. Even after this supposed deletion the researchers were able to find the photos on seven of the 16 websites a month later, simply by visiting the web location associated with the image.

The problem arises because sites often fail to remove image files from their photo servers after they are deleted from the main website.

Photo-sharing sites such as Flickr and Google's Picasa, as well as Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces, removed content from its servers upon deletion. But photos posted on sites including Facebook lingered in caches, even after images were removed from a user's profile. Other offenders include MySpace and Bebo.

A summary of the study - entitled Attack of the Zombie Photos - can be found here.

Joseph Bonneau, one of the PhD students involved in the study, criticised a "lazy approach" to user privacy by some social networking websites, which could be in violation of data protection rules banning the retention of personally-identifiable data for longer than necessary.

However, a spokesman for Facebook said that the site does delete photos from its systems once users remove them from their profile, claiming that images were only available because they were cached elsewhere.

A Facebook spokesman told the BBC: "URLs to photographs may continue to exist on the Content Delivery Network (CDN) after users delete them from Facebook, until they are overwritten. Overwriting usually happens after a short period of time."

The issue, much like the easy availability of supposedly deleted posts to micro-blogging website Twitter, serves as a further wakeup call to Web 2.0 fans that information posted onto social networking sites often isn't removed by simply deleting it. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
Carders punch holes through Staples
Investigation launched into East Coast stores
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.