Feeds

Undead deleted photos linger on social networking websites

We're coming to embarrass you, Barbara!

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
Early result from Scots indyref vote? NAW, Jimmy - it's a SCAM
Anyone claiming to know before tomorrow is telling porkies
Jihadi terrorists DIDN'T encrypt their comms 'cos of Snowden leaks
Intel bods' analysis concludes 'no significant change' after whistle was blown
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
China hacked US Army transport orgs TWENTY TIMES in ONE YEAR
FBI et al knew of nine hacks - but didn't tell TRANSCOM
Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't
We know what's good for you, because we made the mess says Redmond
NORKS ban Wi-Fi and satellite internet at embassies
Crackdown on tardy diplomatic sysadmins providing accidental unfiltered internet access
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.