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article imageFacebook announces profile picture changes to help you stay safe

By James Walker     Jun 22, 2017 in Technology
Facebook has announced a set of new safety features related to profile pictures that are designed to give users peace of mind over how their images are used. The options are based on feedback from Indian users and are currently limited to the country.
In a news post today, Facebook explained how it has heard from users in some regions that they do not feel they can share profile pictures safely. In countries like India, it has heard that people can be too scared to publicly upload a picture of their face. The company wants everyone to use a personal profile photo though, claiming this helps others to find friends and ensures the platform stays focused on "meaningful" connections between users.
Facebook has partnered with Indian safety organisations including Centre for Social Research, Learning Links Foundation, Breakthrough and Youth Ki Awaaz to develop new tools. It recounted how they're based on feedback from some women in India who do not upload personal profile photos. They're concerned about how the image could be used if it's downloaded and redistributed by another person. By default, Facebook lets other users download profile pictures.
The company is now testing a new set of controls with Indian users. Facebook's "profile picture guard" allows you to restrict people from downloading and sharing your picture, preventing it from spreading outside of Facebook.
This includes active preventions on supported devices that stop others from taking screenshots of the picture for later sharing. This feature is currently available on Android devices where the system-level functionality is implemented to stop screenshots of sensitive material.
Facebook has been studying ways of deterring people from sharing others' profile pictures. It said one effective method is to simply add another layer of design to the image. Citing "preliminary tests," the company claimed that people are 75% less likely to download or share an image of a person if it's overlaid with a graphic border or pattern.
In the light of this research, Facebook has built new design tools for profile pictures that let you add a graphic layer when you upload a new image. The company has worked with illustrator Jessica Singh to create overlays based on traditional Indian textile styles. They're available today for users to add to their profile picture guard.
Facebook said the new tools are a reflection of its intention to better tailor its product to local communities. After hearing how Indian users feel unable to fully engage with its platform, the company created Profile Picture Guard as a response. The company said it's now exploring wider ways of combatting profile picture misuse. It intends to give the features a wider rollout "soon."
"Today, we are piloting new tools that give people in India more control over who can download and share their profile pictures," said Facebook. "In addition, we’re exploring ways people can more easily add designs to profile pictures, which our research has shown helpful in deterring misuse. Based on what we learn from our experience in India, we hope to expand to other countries soon."
The tools are available in India from today. They'll show up automatically the next time a profile picture is uploaded, offering a step-by-step side guide to enable the protections. Guarded pictures will be indicated by a blue border and shield icon, intended to signal to other users that they should be respected.
More about Facebook, Social media, Social network, Online, Online safety
 
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