Feeds

Undead deleted photos linger on social networking websites

We're coming to embarrass you, Barbara!

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

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. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.