Takhteyev-Photograph..

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Takhteyev-Photograph..
Presentation and Privacy in Online Photography
Yuri Takhteyev
School of Information Management and Systems
University of California, Berkeley
102 South Hall Berkeley, CA 94720-4600
[email protected]
August 31, 2004
This work was funded by NSF grant IIS-0205647, ”Data on the Deep Web: Queries, Trawls, Policies and
Countermeasures.”
This document is a draft and shall therefore not be redistributed or quoted without the
author’s explicit permission.
Abstract
This report presents preliminary results of a study dedicated to understanding current practices
involving presentation of personal photographs online, by means of observing publicly accessible online
collections of personal photos. The study focuses on privacy and identity management issues related to
such practices.
Contents
1 Introduction
2 Review of Privacy Literature
2.1 Need for Privacy . . . . . . . . . .
2.1.1 Identity Management . . .
2.1.2 Strategic Information . . .
2.1.3 Balance of Power . . . . . .
2.1.4 Annoyance . . . . . . . . .
2.1.5 Personal Safety . . . . . . .
2.2 Invasive Technologies . . . . . . . .
2.3 Determinants of Concern . . . . .
2.3.1 Use . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.3.2 Content and Modality . . .
2.3.3 Identification . . . . . . . .
2.3.4 Being in Control . . . . . .
2.4 Natural Solutions . . . . . . . . . .
2.5 Proposed Solutions . . . . . . . . .
2.5.1 Empowered Self-Regulation
2.5.2 Property Rights in Personal
2.5.3 Cryptography and DRM . .
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Information
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11
Introduction
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3 Methods and Procedures
3.1 Overview . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2 Observed Sites . . . . . . . . .
3.2.1 SmugMug.com . . . . .
3.2.2 Gallery . . . . . . . . .
3.2.3 Fotki.com . . . . . . . .
3.2.4 Personal Ads . . . . . .
3.2.5 Housing Ads . . . . . .
3.2.6 Project Documentation
3.2.7 Photo Blogs . . . . . . .
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4 Privacy
5 Presentation
5.1 Presentation of Self . .
5.2 Narrative . . . . . . .
5.3 Audience . . . . . . .
5.4 Presentation of Others
5.5 Access Control . . . .
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6 Activities
6.1 Professional Photography . . . . . . .
6.1.1 Photography for Sale . . . . . .
6.1.2 Photographers for Hire . . . . .
6.1.3 Photojournalism . . . . . . . .
6.2 Casual Photography . . . . . . . . . .
6.2.1 Party and Friends Photography
6.2.2 Special Event Photography . .
6.2.3 Travel Photography . . . . . .
6.2.4 Kid Photography . . . . . . . .
6.2.5 Family Historians . . . . . . . .
6.3 Photography as a Hobby . . . . . . . .
6.3.1 Aesthetic Photography . . . . .
6.3.2 Photoengineering . . . . . . . .
6.3.3 Blogging with Photos . . . . .
6.3.4 Travel Storytelling . . . . . . .
6.3.5 Amateur Pornography . . . . .
6.4 Photography as a tool . . . . . . . . .
6.4.1 Presenting Collections . . . . .
6.4.2 Documenting Projects . . . . .
6.5 Other Uses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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References
1
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34
Introduction
This project presents preliminary results of a study aiming to understand emerging personal online photography practices and their implications for privacy and construction of identity.
While many parts of the world have been dominated by photographic images for several decades, up
until recently most of the images encountered by a typical individual were produced by hired photographers.
Ubiquitous digital cameras may be changing this as more and more people make available online images
they produced themselves.
I refer to such practice as "personal online photography." When such images are placed online in sets
of several photographs, I refer to such websites as "online personal photo collections." I will also frequently
Review of Privacy Literature
3
refer to the "author" of the collection - the individual who assembled the photos and put them online. In
most cases, the author of the collection would either have taken the photos themselves or someone else took
the photos with the author’s camera.
In this study, I aim to understand privacy and identity management issues relating to online personal
photo collection.
In the first section of this report I present a review of privacy literature from a number of disciplines. While
this review aims to be reasonably comprehensive, the rest of the report primarily makes use of a particular
perspective on privacy - a view of privacy as an identity management issue influenced by work of Erving
Goffman. Other approaches are presented to provide context for the identity management perspective.
The method section discusses a study that involved observing collections of personal photos online,
describing what kinds of websites were observed and how they were selected.
After that, I dicuss some of the ways that privacy can be compromized with photos on the internet. I
then expand the scope of the discussion to consider issues of presentation of self and others. My hope is
that this approach will provide a broader understanding of privacy than one could get by focusing the study
more narrowly on privacy topics per se.
The last section discusses separately some of the distinct pratices that can be observed online and talks
about specific privacy implications of those practices.
2
Review of Privacy Literature
The literature on privacy is quite diverse and comes from many different disciplines, including law, political science, human-computer interaction, ubiquitous computing, economics and sociology. Some of those
disciplines draw on results from other, some develop their approaches independently. For example, humancomputer interaction discussion of privacy currently draws heavily on sociology, political science draws heavily
on law, and economics approaches privacy independently with almost no overlap with other disciplines.
Instead of discussing privacy literature by discipline, I will summarize it by the key concepts and the
relationships between them, mentioning where appropriate which disciplines make use of each concept. I
group privacy concepts into several large groups, answering the following questions:
• Why is privacy necessary or important?
• What technologies endanger privacy?
• What factors determine individual’s level of concern about privacy?
2.1
Need for Privacy
Literature from different disciplines provides different answers to the question of why privacy is important
at all. Those answers may be articulated explicitly or may be present as unstated assumptions.
2.1.1
Identity Management
In his 1959 book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life Goffman (1959) presents the concept of identity
management as work directed toward creating an appropriate impression of oneself in front of others in
order to assert the moral right to be treated in a particular way. Goffman uses a dramaturgical metaphor,
looking at people as actors in a theater and viewing identities as something that people perform rather than
something that they inherently are. Furthermore, he does not see such active presentation of identity as
anything exceptional, but rather as fundamental:
The ability to present the self, and to make moral claims about how one is to be perceived
and acted upon, is a fundamental mechanism for structuring social relations and asserting social
power (Goffman, 1959).
Goffman argues that successful performance of identities requires management of settings and props, such
as physical places, clothes, and various signs of office and rank. For example, in order to successfully perform
the role of the professor and be accepted as such by the students, one needs the access to a university lecture
Review of Privacy Literature
4
hall and appropriate clothes. It would be rather hard to convincingly play this role while wearing pajamas
or in a circus.
Goffman also points out the need to keep the audience from accessing the "backstage" which comprises
one’s activities which are incongruent with one’s current performance. For example, students’ knowledge of
too many details the teacher’s personal life can seriously disrupt her ability to perform the role of a teacher
successfully.
It is this aspect of Goffman’s approach that makes it particularly relevant to the discussion of privacy:
in order to perform their identity roles successfully, individuals need to be able to compartmentalize their
lives presenting different audiences with a filtered, limited view. Exposure of "backstage" information
to inappropriate audiences disrupts the individuals’ ability to present themselves as competent engineers,
caring doctors, etc. While such discussion of privacy does not enter The Presentation of Self in Everyday
Life explicitly, the connection between identity management and privacy has been made a while back, e.g.
by Schwartz (1968). Since then, the concept of identity management has become central to discussion of
privacy in several fields, especially in human-computer interaction (e.g., Lederer, Mankoff, and Day (2003)).
Of course, the disruptive nature of such "backstage" information could potentially be reduced by making
it compatible with the public expectations regarding the role. Such approach is advocated by Brin (1998),
who argues that a lot of modern privacy concerns would dissipate if the details of everyone’s private life
were exposed, since we would then know that "everyone does it." This approach is also discussed by Phillips
(2002) in a more targeted way in connection with gay liberation movement. Phillips contrasts individual
identity management with group identity management:
Strategic self-revelation, concealment, and context management is not merely personal, but
fundamentally political. ...the gay rights movement has employed ’coming out’ as its primary
tactic and philosophy since at least the 1960’s.
He points that while it may be in the interest of the individual to keep in the "backstage" the activities
incongruent with the roles they are trying to perform, it may be in the interest of the group to expose those
activities in the hope that they will stop being perceived as incongruent with those roles.
The identity management perspective accepts as valid the desire of the individuals to keep some of their
actual activities out of public view. Therefore, the information does not need to be misleading or libelous
in order to interfere with performance of identity. In fact, true information can be more dangerous, since
it might be harder to dismiss it. However, misleading information has a similar potential for disrupting
performance of identity.
2.1.2
Strategic Information
Privacy literature in economics has focused on the strategic nature of personal information. According to
this view, knowledge of certain facts about the individual (e.g., their willingness to pay for a product) could
be used against them in market negotiations. To use an example from Varian (1996):
...the buyer will in general not want the seller to know r, the maximum price that he is willing
to pay for the item being sold. If this information were available to the seller, the seller would
price the product at the buyer’s maximum willingness to pay, and the buyer would receive no
surplus from the transaction.
Of course, the seller does not need to explicitly know the maximum price r, but can try to estimate it
based on other information about the buyer, e.g. their age, occupation, or prior purchases. As a result,
such information about the buyer has has value to the seller which can be estimated based on the additional
surplus that the seller can get using price discrimination.
In addition to adjusting prices, a vendor may use such strategic information to estimate the relative value
of different customers and choose to do business with some and not others, or to do business with different
customers on different terms. For instance, a vendor might assign lower priority to a customer believing
that they are unlikely to complete a purchase. To take a more extreme but quite realistic example, a health
insurance company may choose to deny insurance to an individual expecting them to be at a high risk of
getting sick.
Review of Privacy Literature
5
Apart from differential pricing of insurance and some benign forms of price discrimination, such as
discounts for students, children or seniors, differential pricing of goods based on personal history is mostly
hypothetical at this point. On the other hand, denial of service based on personal information is actively
practiced at the moment and thus enters privacy discussion outside economics much more often. In fact, fear
of denial of health insurance to those who need it most may be one of the most commonly cited examples of
need for privacy in popular press.
The strategic economic value of personal information has a flip side: individuals almost always want to
share some information while doing business with others. For example, they typically want to let the seller
know what they want. Furthermore, they may be interested in sharing information that would allow the
vendor to recognize them as a customer that is worthy of preferential treatment or a better price (Varian,
1996).
2.1.3
Balance of Power
Many authors discuss the crucial role of information in maintaining social power, and specifically on the
distribution of power between the state and the individuals. Information is essential for social control, since
the state cannot successfully control activities that it does not know about:
Just as a law banning the use of contraceptives would tend to encourage bedroom searches,
so also would a ban on bedroom searches tend to discourage laws prohibiting contraceptives.
(Stunz, sited in Langheinrich (2002a))
From that point of view, availability of too much information about individual activities makes it easier for
the state to control behavior.
Many authorities further point out that surveillance can in and of itself serve as a mechanism of power,
even without the active enforcement: people who are being closely watched are more likely to behave as
prescribed. This view of privacy is sometimes summarized in the image of the "Panopticon" - a prison
designed in 1791 by Jeremy Bentham. The Panopticon puts the prisoners under total surveillance by the
invisible guards, making it impossible for the prisoners to know when they are watched and leading them to
behave as if they were watched constantly. This view of privacy has also been popularized in a number of
dystopias, such as Orwell’s 1984 (Orwell, 1948)or Zamyatin’s We (Zamyatin, 1920).
2.1.4
Annoyance
Privacy is often seen as a matter of avoiding nuisance:
When many people talk about "privacy rights" they are really talking about the "right not
to be annoyed." I don’t really care if someone has my telephone number as long as they don’t
call me during dinner and try to sell me insurance (Varian, 1996).
Unlike other approaches that focus on long-term consequences of private information, this view of privacy focuses on the immediate cost of undesired interactions, such as lost time or emotional distress. One
interesting aspect of this view of privacy is that it allows for a more ready estimation of the economic cost
of privacy invasion, compared to the longer term concerns.
"The right not to be annoyed" can be traced back to "the right to be left alone" advocated by Warren
and Brandeis (1890), which was later defended by Brandeis in his dissenting opinion in 1928 wiretapping
case Olmstead v. U.S.:
The makers of our Constitution... conferred, as against the government, the right to be let
alone-the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men (Olmstead v.
U.S. 277 U.S. 438, 473 , 1928).
The "right to be left alone" however, is somewhat broader, and may seem to incorporate not only the
right to be annoyed, but a more general right to go about one’s business uninterrupted. Warren and Brandeis
(1890) explicitly connect this aspect of privacy to "the right not be assaulted or beaten, the right not be
imprisoned, the right not to be maliciously prosecuted, the right not to be defamed."
Review of Privacy Literature
2.1.5
6
Personal Safety
If an individual wants to violate the life or possessions of another, gathering private information often has to
be the first step. Such information as physical address, car license plates, favorite restaurants, or the time at
which one usually arrives at the bus stop may thus become quite dangerous in some hands. To paraphrase
Varian (1996), I don’t really care if someone has my address as long as they don’t show up at my home with
an ax.
There is a body of non-academic literature dedicated to the importance of privacy for personal safety.
Popular books like Luna (2000) present the reader with a thousand and one reason for keeping their home
address and other personal information hidden from the public, from the possibility of being robbed or
murdered by an ex-spouse to identity theft or police persecution.
This view of privacy has also been present in semi-academic conferences like "Computers Freedom and
Privacy" and in some academic publications. However, it is usually merely acknowledged in passing, and
focuses on risks associated with identity theft. I have not been able to locate a purely academic treatment
of this issue.
2.2
Invasive Technologies
A lot of modern discussion of privacy is shaped by the rapid changes in information technology. Below I
discuss seven main areas of technological development that greatly impact privacy. The first four of those
involve technologies that make it easier to capture information: ubiquitous imaging and audio recording,
location tracking, capture of digital transactions. The remaining three involve increased ability to store,
process and search the collected information. Those technologies are illustrated in 1.
Ubiquitous Imaging The costs of photo sensors and related circuitry have been dropping rapidly over
the last several years. As a result, digital cameras have been quickly decreasing in prices. While a few years
ago, digital camera prices started at $300, it is currently possible to buy a camera for $100, which would be
capable of storing several hundred images. It is easy to imagine that within several years compact digital
cameras for $20 would be common place.
Cell phone manufacturers have also been actively integrating digital cameras into the phones. At the
moment, the cameras have become common in the higher-end phones, but one can expect them to become a
standard feature in all phones. At the same time, the quality of the cameras might improve, at least in the
higher end phones. (This trend could be counteracted by the recent moves to ban camera phones in certain
places.)
The privacy risks associated with photography has been discussed as far back as 1890 by Warren and
Brandeis (1890). The proliferation of ubiquitous imaging takes those concerns to a new level. This has been
recently extensively discussed in news press, which has documented many cases of clear abuse, such as men
arrested for taking photos under women’s skirts (Dowdy (2004)), as well as more ambiguous cases, such
as US Army contractors taking photos of soldier’s coffins (Harden & Milbank, 2004), or the publication of
photos of abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
In addition to many articles discussing issues of privacy abuse with photos, the popular press has also
pointed out the potential benefits of ubiquitous imaging. News articles have described use of cameras to
document or stop crime (Bahari, 2004), as evidence of innocence (Brueggeman, 2004), or to make a record
of ones belonging to prevent theft (EZWeddingPlanner.com, 2004).
There has also been some discussion of the privacy issues related to professional photography in professional press, e.g., Abrams (1999) and Weiss (2004). At the same time, I have not been able to locate serious
treatment of this topic in academic literature.
Audio and Video Recording Unlike digital cameras, which have a clear potential to become cheaper
and more ubiquitous than film cameras ever were and therefore has attracted a lot of attention in the media,
digital audio recording technology is yet to make a big splash. Despite the popularity of MP3 audio players,
digital audio recorders are still more expensive than traditional dictaphones and has only recently surpassed
them in storage capacity. However, I expect MP3 recorders to become popular in the near future, attracting
attention in the popular press.
Review of Privacy Literature
7
Figure 1: Technologies affecting privacy
Review of Privacy Literature
8
Location Tracking Location data is emerging as another source of information about individuals. A
number of technical devices are now capable of determining their location. This provides opportunities for
location-based services from tourist information (Abowd et al., 1997) to routing calls (Want, Hopper, Falco,
& Gibbons, 1992). However, this leads to possibility of abuse. Furthermore, information about location
history can be used to infer some higher level activities (Patterson, Liao, Fox, & Kautz, 2003).
Unlike ubiquitous imaging and audio recording, privacy concerns related to device tracking have been
discussed at length in ubiquitous computing literature. Want et al. (1992) presented a system for locating
employees within an office building using "Active Badges") and briefly discussed the privacy concerns. They
reported that the employees did not mind wearing the badges and suggested that the fact that the system
tracks devices other than people resolves a lot of privacy issues:
There will always be some days when for whatever reason somebody does not wish to be
located. This is easy to solve because the system tracks badges and NOT people. Anybody in
this situation can easily remove their badge and leave it on a desk (Want et al., 1992).
The discussion of location tracking has since been a common focus of privacy research in ubiquitous
computing. For example, while presenting a system that could potentially used for dealing with several
different invasive technologies, Jiang, Hong, and Landay (2002) focus on location tracking for examples.
Toyama, Logan, and Roseway (2003) discussed the possibilities for associating location information with
digital images, citing a number of methods for acquiring and storing the location information. Wilhelm,
Takhteyev, Sarvas, Van House, and Davis (2004) and Sarvas, Herrarte, Wilhelm, and Davis (2004) discuss
the possibility of recording higher level location information ("University of California" vs. "37.8722 ,
-122.2585") by combining automatic detection of location with some assistance from the user.
Digital Transactions Online transactions have been a topic of discussion for a number of years, both
in academic literature, in news media and in political forums. Tracking web behavior through cookies has
been a common topic. Millett, Friedman, and Felten (2001) discuss use of cookies to create user profiles
and suggests enhancements to web browsers that would make it easier for users to safeguard their privacy.
Collection of information on the web has also attracted government’s attention in the United States, and
has been investigated by the FTC (e.g., Federal Trade Commission, 2000).
While capturing digital transactions may the most widely discussed invasive technology. I will not
discuss it further here since privacy implications of online behavior differ from the implications of online
photography, which, like other ubiquitous computing applications has the ability to peek into the physical
world and capture real-world behavior, including that of strangers.
Storage With miniaturization of hard drives, mass storage becomes portable. With 4GB Compact Flash
cards, one can easily carry hours of video in a pocket. This has been creating security problems for companies,
some of which now prohibit employees from bringing iPods to work for the fear of employees walking off
with large quantities of company data.
Search and Access Information becomes much more powerful (and potentially much more damaging) if
it can be accessed with ease. Several authors, e.g. Lessig (1998), point out that searchable data has fundamentally different privacy implications than data per se: it doesn’t get lost under piles of other information
and eventually forgotten, and hence has the ability to haunt the individual indefinitely. The implications of
the ability to find information about other people via Google have been widely discussed in popular press
(CNN, 2003).
Unlike text documents that are currently easily searchable (Sparck Jones and Willett. (1997)), images
can be hard to find. Since images are opaque to computers, it is currently only possible to search for images
based on adjacent text, or (in rare case) some kind of metadata provided with the images. Some work has
gone into developing systems for annotating images to make them searchable. E.g., Schreiber, Dubbeldam,
Wielemaker, and Wielinga (2001) prose using a faceted metadata framework for annotating images and Yee,
Swearingen, Li, and Hearst (2003) discuss a system for browsing and searching for images using such a
framework. A number of photo annotation tools targeted at consumers have also been proposed (Kuchinsky
et al., 1999, Shneiderman & Kang, 2000). However, we have reasons to expect that only a small fraction of
photos would be explicitly annotated even if convenient tools were available (Wilhelm et al., 2004).
Review of Privacy Literature
9
Correlating Data New technology would potentially makes it possible to correlate information from
different sources and find revealing patterns, even if the data in each individual source may be rather
innocent.
Correlation of different sources of information may have importance consequences for online imaging, as it
might allow to search images using correlated information. As was mentioned above, associating geographical
information with photos is currently being investigated. Location data can then in turn be correlated with
other kinds of information and serve as a link between such information and the photos.
2.3
Determinants of Concern
A number of studies investigated under what conditions people are (or would be expected to be) concerned
about privacy. E.g., Ackerman, Cranor, and Reagle (1999) conducted a web survey regarding privacy preferences in online transactions. They identified several main factors determining privacy concerns, including
whether information was to be shared with third parties and whether the subject was to be identified.
Adams and Sasse (1999) conducted a study of people’s reaction to surveillance in an office environment,
finding that audio surveillance caused more concerns than video without audio. They also report a strong
relation between privacy concerns and power relations. Below, I discuss some of the specific determinants of
concern in more detail.
2.3.1
Use
The most commonly reported determinant of concern is the expected future use of the collected information.
Subjects want to know how the collected information is going to be used. In particular, further sharing of
the information with third parties is a major factor, as reported by Ackerman et al. (1999).
2.3.2
Content and Modality
The kind of information collected is another important factor (Ackerman et al., 1999). Some information
is simply more sensitive than other. Adams and Sasse (1999) report that in their study of reactions to an
office surveillance system, audio recording was seen as much more invasive than video without audio. They
suggest that this difference between modality reflects the difference between the kind of information captured
by audio vs. video: audio recording captures conversations (a highly sensitive domain), while video captures
movement and behavior (less sensitive in the office environment).
2.3.3
Identification
Sensitivity of information interacts strongly with the possibility of identification: people are more open to
share personal information if it can’t be linked to them. Ackerman et al. (1999) report:
In a scenario involving a banking Web site, 58% of respondents said they would provide
information about their income, investments, and investment goals in order to receive customize
investment advice. However, only 35% said they would also supply their name and address so
that they could receive an investment guide booklet by mail...
Note that since the guarantee of anonymity can never be absolute, it is hard to estimate whether all privacy
concerns would go away if perfect anonymity could be guaranteed.
The crucial role of anonymity leads to an important concept of "personally identifying information" - the
information sufficient to link a profile to a specific individual. Name, social security number, address and
phone number are all usually considered sufficient for such identification. An email address may be sufficient
in some cases but not others.
Some authors make use of a related concept of pseudonymity (Langheinrich, 2002a). Unlike anonymity,
which often suggests that individual’s information dissolves in a sea of anonymous data, pseudonymity implies
creation of a unique profile and identity, however, not explicitly linked with a person in the real world.
Langheinrich (2002a) points out that while pseudonymity may serve as a solution for privacy of online
transactions, it is of limited help when dealing with breach of privacy in the physical world:
Review of Privacy Literature
10
Unless we want to abandon our current social interactions completely and deal only behind
digital pseudonyms in virtual reality with each other, we must realize that our real-world presence
cannot be completely hidden, nor perfectly anonymized.
This observation, referring to a wide range of ubiquitous computing technology, clearly applies to photography
in particular: use of pseudonyms cannot save one from being photographed by others and from having one’s
face identified in the photos later.
2.3.4
Being in Control
Several authors point out the importance of perception of control: people are much more sensitive about
privacy violations if they feel that they have no control about what is happening.
Adams and Sasse (1999) report that in their study, the researchers who put up the surveillance system
did not feel that it violated their privacy:
...even though Group 3 used the common room, they still retained an over-riding perception
of the situation as an observer - they viewed the situation "through the camera’s eyes".
Those who were subjected to surveillance against their will were much more likely to resent it.
Similar results were reported earlier by Harper (1996) who interviewed users of the Active Badge system
reported by Want et al. (1992). Harper reports that the responses to the system dependent to a large
degree on one’s affiliation with the lab that designed the badges and imposed them on the rest of the lab.
While Harper mentions that some of the reactions were determined by the general hostility between the
labs, it is important to note that affiliation with the controlling group or with the groups upon whom the
technology was imposed influenced the privacy concerns. Friedman, Kahn, and Hagman (2004) report a
similar reduction of concern for privacy in a situation involving video observation of a public space for men
who are allowed to play the role of "watchers," but note lack of such reduction in concern for women, which
they interpret by suggesting that women bring privacy concerns into a larger range of roles due to feeling
vulnerable on a more regular basis.
2.4
Natural Solutions
Literature on privacy discusses several traditional solutions to privacy concerns, most of which revolve around
several types of natural "borders."
Spatial borders, such as physical walls, in many ways define privacy. There is a strong tradition in much
of the world of seeing walls of the house as the boundary between the private and the public: people can
expect privacy inside their homes, but not outside. In the United States and other countries, spatial borders
have been reinforced with a legal notion of trespass. While legality of such actions as wiretapping or taking
photos through a window have been debated, the US courts have been unanimous that an invasion of privacy
is always illegal if it involves physical violation of spatial borders, such as entering a house (Lessig, 1998).
Privacy is also naturally supported by "temporal borders." Prior to the advent of ubiquitous recording
and mass storage, personal information was primarily carried in human memory and got forgotten or reinterpreted over time. With modern technology, individuals face a real risk that their current behavior will
be available for inspection in minute detail many years after. As Langheinrich (2002a) points out:
...just the thought of dealing with people who have a perfect memory and in theory would
never forget anything, will probably have a sizable effect on interpersonal relationships.
Finally, privacy is naturally protected by social borders: information available to one group of people often
stays within this group. This is maintained by a convention that there is an expectation of not bringing
information from one social context to another, as well as by practical difficulty in sharing information
between social contexts.
Methods and Procedures
2.5
2.5.1
11
Proposed Solutions
Empowered Self-Regulation
Many authors suggest that the solution to privacy problems lies in empowering the observed to negotiate
with the observers. They point out that while the watched have a range of traditional retorts against the
watchers (for instance, legal action or social / economic boycott), the disruptive technologies often make it
harder for them to make use of those methods. One way to support privacy is to design accountability into
technology (Langheinrich, 2002b).
A commonly cited problem is that the invasive technologies create "information asymmetry" - the watched
don’t know that they are being watched (Adams & Sasse, 1999, Jiang et al., 2002). While 19th century
photo cameras made it almost impossible to take a photo of a stranger without them noticing, a modern
camera phone allows anyone to take candid shots.
As a result, several authors advocate design that reduces information asymmetry. For instance, most
formulations of "Fair Information Practices" stress disclosure about what information is collected.
Privacy notices, however, become ineffective as they multiply in number. The information would be
potentially collected by so many different agents that an individual may be drowned in disclosure notices.
Privacy policies on websites present a real-life example: it is impractical for the user to seek out and read the
privacy policy of every website they visit. Similarly, if the presence of surveillance cameras in office buildings
were announced, the walls would be plastered with notices, which would soon fade into the background.
Machine-readable privacy policies are often proposed as a solution. If collection of private information
was accompanied by such notices, the users could theoretically filter a flood of notices to only be alarmed
when their preferences are about to be violated. "Platform for Privacy Preferences" or "P3P" aims to
enable such automatic management of privacy policies for the Web. As an extra step, a user’s agent could
potentially not only filter the privacy policies of the data collector, but actively negotiate a compromise.
2.5.2
Property Rights in Personal Information
Another group of proposals argues that a new approach to privacy regulation is needed - treating personal
information as private property. Under this approach, personal information would be treated in a way much
similar to how copyrighted content is currently treated under the law: one would need a license from the
owner to make use of it (Varian, 1996). It is often further proposed that a national market for personal
information could be created (Laudon, 1996).
Release forms for commercial photography already operate that way - if a photograph is to be used to
promote a product, an explicit permission must be obtained from the subject who may ask for compensation
depending on how the image is to be used.
2.5.3
Cryptography and DRM
Several authors look for solutions to privacy problems in cryptographic techniques. For instance, Canny
(2002) suggests a method for extracting useful aggregate data without compromising privacy of individuals.
Usage of digital rights management (DRM) techniques has also been advocated as a way of safeguarding
privacy. DRM techniques could potentially allow users to share their data for some use and not others.
3
3.1
Methods and Procedures
Overview
In March 2004 I conducted a preliminary observation of public photo collections, roughly identifying a range
of uses for photos on the web (personal photo collections, photo blogs, moblogs, illustrated personal stories,
dating sites, housing ads, project websites, etc.) and making a list of preliminary variables. This work was
partly shared by Megan Finn.
In late May and early June 2004 I observed a range of publicly available websites containing personal
photos and several related types of content for comparison. The websites were selected using a purposive
sample, aiming at observing both typical and extreme cases.
Methods and Procedures
12
I started by making a preliminary list of the kinds of sites that contain personal online photos. The
preliminary categories focused on where personal photos could be found or on the technical methods of
sharing photos online, e.g. "self-hosted photo collections", "personal ads", "commercial photo hosting",
"photo blogs." Those were not meant to be analytic categories but were exclusively used for sampling.
After asking a number of people if they can suggest additional categories and modifying the list accordingly,
I proceeded to look for examples of sites for each category. The methods of finding examples varied by
category. For instance, for the category "commercial websites" I looked at a number of popular services,
excluded those that did not allow the users to show the photos publicly and eventually focused on two
that made it easiest to sample photos. For the category "self-hosted photos using Gallery" I searched for
"Powered by Gallery" in Google, looking at some of the highly rated as well as extremely low rated results.
–TODO– (Probably need to write more about sampling methodology)
While observing the websites I took screenshots of some of the pages, collecting a total of 720.
In addition to reviewing literature and collecting primary data through observation, I monitored online
news sources for articles regarding photography or privacy, and especially the intersection of the two. The
choice of online news sources over printed ones was motivated by the ease of search. Some of the news
materials have been incorporated in the literature review section.
While reviewing the data I took notes and then wrote memos exploring specific themes. The chapters
comprising the remainder of the report are largely based on those memos.
3.2
Observed Sites
This section describes the sites observed in the course of the project. It does contain any analysis but merely
aims to make it clear what kinds of pages were included. The groups are listed roughly in the order in which
they were observed.
3.2.1
SmugMug.com
Smug Mug is a company offering photo hosting oriented for both casual and serious photographers. Unlike
other companies providing similar services (e.g. Ofoto, Shutterfly or Yahoo! Photos), Smug Mug allows the
visitor to search for users’ photos by keywords and shows links to some users’ photos on the front page.
While the value of this feature to the user is highly questionable, it made it possible to observe a range of
collections. I looked at a number of Smug Mug collections, including:
• A collection by a woman in her mid-twenties (who identifies herself by first name), containing a lot of
photos of friends, social/family events, some travel and a recently added link to a blog. * A collection
of photos of concerts and drunken parties with some partial nudity. * A collection of photos of a 8
month old baby, with most photos in password-protected albums. * A popular collection by a US
soldier in Iraq, mostly dedicated to Iraq, but with some photos from back home.
3.2.2
Gallery
Gallery is a open source PHP package that one can install on a server to host photos. It is estimated to have
at least 70,000 users (Mediratta (2004)) and is by far the most popular way of hosting photos on one’s own
server. I decided to seek out Gallery sites, guessing that an average Gallery user might have more technical
skills than Smug Mug or Fotki members (since installing Gallery is easy, but not trivial) and might have
different kinds of collections.
I observed six Gallery systems, which included:
• Two collections by bloggers dedicated to art photos,with a lot of personal information provided about
the author on the blog.
• A collection dedicated to parties, by a blogger.
• A collection dedicated to miscellaneous events (some social, some trips, etc).
• A collection of photos from theater performances, by a performance troop.
Methods and Procedures
13
• A collection of family pictures, with some photos of kids, with a number of albums password protected
for privacy reasons.
3.2.3
Fotki.com
Fotki.com is a service similar to Smug Mug, with a few significant differences. Fotki’s user base is heavily
skewed toward foreign immigrants in the US, especially from Russia. (It appears that the founders of the
company are Russian.) While this make the Fotki’s user base not representative of the general US public,
Fotki has a number of advantages as a source of data: First, the site makes it possible to view random images,
which makes it easier to sample images. Second, the site appears to have a number of sub-communities with
rather different practices, from car collectors to pornography traders. (It is possible that Smug Mug has a
comparable range, but it is simply harder to discover it.)
In addition to browsing the site manually, I collected data from Fotki.com using a collection of Python
scripts. I extracted complete folder structure and thumbnails representing albums for 1000 users, which
included names of password protected albums, but not of their subalbums. For the same 1000 users plus
another 1000, I collected users’ public profile (any information they chose to publish, often location, email,
etc.) and list of "friends" on the system (somewhat friendster-like).
The data have not been fully analyzed and has so far primarily been used to make it easier to locate
albums with particular characteristics. In particular, it has made it easier to locate "locked" albums - albums
that are only accessible to logged in visitors authorized by the owner. (About 40% of the Fotki users have
locked album, but in many cases the locked albums are not features on the top level in the album hierarchy,
making it hard to see if the user has any.)
The primary motivation for looking for users with locked album is that presence of locked albums indicate
that the user knows how to use this feature. Therefore, we can conclude that world-readable albums are left
often consciously. The users who have all of their albums open, might simply be unaware of the ability to
lock albums.
The collections observed on Fotki.com included:
• A collection featuring hundreds of photos of Barbie dolls in various arrangements.
• Multiple collections featuring photos of parties and concerts, sometimes with partial nudity.
• A collection of photos of about 50 sports events.
• A collection of photos of cars and scans of documentation.
• Several collections dedicated to baby photos.
• Travel collections, with some family and party pictures.
• A collection of photos of car models and hundreds of photos of color chips.
• A collection of travel photos intermixed with maps.
• Several collections of pornography (amateur or from something like Playboy), with most of the photos protected with passwords, which could be obtained in exchange for passwords to other similar
collections.
3.2.4
Personal Ads
I looked at personal ads on five dating websites (e.g. Lave Life, Yahoo! Personals, Dating in Miami, etc.),
examining a total of 50-100 ads. I decided to look at those for several reasons: First, personal ads typically
feature photos, but unlike most photo collections tend to also expose sensitive information (e.g. "attached,
looking for a discrete encounter"). Second, people who post personal ads also presumably have stronger
desire to make a positive impression. Finally, while most collections on Smug Mug, Fotki, etc. are probably
viewed predominantly by friends of the posters (or are at least arranged with this expectation), people who
post personal ads typically do not want their friends to see them.
Privacy
3.2.5
14
Housing Ads
Housing ads are another example of a public announcement that is often accompanied by ads. I looked at
20-30 housing ads with photos on Craig’s List. Housing ads make an interesting comparison, since (as with
persona ads) the posters expect a lot of unknown people to see the photos, there is no need to post their
own photos. With a single example exception, housing ads never show people, and usually at least try to
avoid showing personal possessions.
3.2.6
Project Documentation
There appears to be a distinct genre of photo collections (typically combined with a narrative) used to
document hobbyist projects. Such a collection typically tells a story about a particular project that the
author conducted, using photos to illustrate all the steps. I looked at several kinds of Project Documentation
collections, such as case mod (hand-made computer case) projects featured on MiniITX.com,
3.2.7
Photo Blogs
I looked at a range of websites that are usually referred to as photoblogs. For analytical purposes, I later
decided to separate those into two separate groups. One group consisted of websites that presented creative
photography in a manner that highlighted the artistic value of the photos. I looked at about a dozen websites
of this kind, discovering many of them by following links from others. Another group consisted of websites
that appeared to focus on documenting authors’ activities or followed "random" themes.
4
Privacy
This section discusses several different scenarios of privacy violations involving photos. Those scenarios seem
to fall into two large classes. Both classes involve photos of people, and the dividing line is whether the
photos originally are taken and make it online with or without subjects consent. I.e., in the "No Consent"
scenarios the subject never wanted their photo to be taken in the first place. In the "Things Get Out of
Hand" scenarios they either consent to having photos online or put them up there themselves, but then
things develop in unticipated directions.
Out of concern for people in the photos, most of the points in this section does not use illustrations.
In the first class of scenarios, the photo gets taken and posted either clearly against subject’s will, or else
the subject is really not in a position to provide informed consent, being drunk, incapacited in some other
way, not having time to react, or being under age.
Observing photos online we can see many examples where the subject is clearly protesting against the
photos. The forms of protest range from frequent disapproving look to active blocking of the camera with
hands (more rare). Note that despite subject’s apparent desire to not be photographed, the photo ends up
not only taken, but also shared with the world. This happens especially often with "friends and parties"
photographers.
This scenario appears to be strongly gendered, protesting subjects being predominantly women. This
point is very strongly emphasized by Koskinen, Kurvinen, and Lehtonen (2002), who report that in their
study men mostly took photos of women, often against their protests, and collected such images as "trophies"
to show to other men. If we look at photography as a mechanism of control and aggression (Sontag, 1977),
this kind of invasion of privacy can be see as a way for men to assert symbolic power over women.
Photos of drunk (or in rare cases sleeping) friends are also extremely common for "friends and parties"
collections. There are lots of photos of people who perhaps wouldn’t want those photos taken if they could
think straight. Of course, we don’t know that - the subjects might in fact be quite comfortable with those
images. Here women again are more common as a subject.
There has also been discussion in the news of photographs taken of seriously incapacitated subjects. One
recent article talked about a patient suiting a hospital after discovering that lewd photos of him were taken
when he was unconscious. As with photos of protesting subjects, it is easy to see a theme of asserting power
here.
A lot of sites feature photos of children. Many are password protected - one of the two kinds of photos
that I saw routinely password protected. (Amateur pornography is another.) Still, there are quite a few
Presentation
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photos out in the public. It’s hard to say here what the subjects would think about this when they grow
up. It is clear, however, that they couldn’t have given informed consent and the mere possibility that they
would later wish those photos were not made publicly available needs to be taken seriously.
Sometimes, the subject simply doesn’t know that a photo of them is being taken. This is rather uncommon
for the more traditional genres like travel photos or friends-and-parties, but there are two kinds of people
who do this: photo enthusiasts and camera phone users. The enthusiasts sometimes take photos of people
in the streets as they try to do "street photography". They might be sometimes inconsiderate but rarely
malicious. Camera phone users seem to go for more of trophy photos, sometimes with a more malicious
intent. Koskinen et al. (Koskinen et al. (2002)) talk about men taking photos of women in the streets to
share as trophies. A real-life example of this is a website mobileasses.com (running for over a year now)
allows people to share and rate photos of women’s behinds. The site brands itself as "The Real Reason
Mobile Phones Have Cameras".
In the second class of scenarios, the subject does consent to having the photos taken, maybe even asks
someone to do it for them. They might even put them up on the web. But then things go out of hand.
There seem to be several things that can go wrong: the photo gets out to a broader audience than intended,
the photo reaches a specific audience it wasn’t meant for, or the meaning of the photo is changed as it is
incorporated into a different narrative. Note that this breach of privacy may or may not involve malicious
actions by another person.
Those scenarios tend to be a lot more rare, and cannot be easily observed by looking at photo collections
online. When they occur, however, they can often have more damaging consequences to the subject, resulting
in broader exposure. As a result, a large number of such scenarios have been documented in the news press.
The rest of the section is thus mostly based on news sources, as well as my personal observations.
In a story reported last year, high school students discovered nude photos of their teacher posted by her
online. This story illustrates a reasonably common scenario: photos get taken with consent of the subject and
posted online for one (sizable) audience with an assumption that some specific other audience (colleagues,
students, relatives) won’t find them, which turns out to be false. In this case, little malicious intervention is
needed for the photos to become known to the excluded group.
Alternatively, the photos may be taken with an intention of being shared with only a small number of
people or not to be shared at all but then end up being shared with the world. The two best known examples
(though both involving video rather than photos) are the The Star Wars Kid (Wired News, 2004) and the
Paris Hilton video.
The Star Wars Kid story involved Canadian Teenager who made a video of himself practicing lightsaber
fencing, which got digitized and put on the Internet. The tape spread quickly, making "The Star Wars Kid"
somewhat of a cultural icon. The teenager is currently undergoing psychiatric treatment while his parents
are suing his friends for damages (Wired News, 2004).
When people do post photos of themselves on the Internet (or consent to this happening) to be seen by
wide audience including both friends and strangers, there can still be a problem of the photos being viewed
out of context.
Consider a recent case: a somewhat overweight man makes himself a costume and posts a story on his
website. The story is clearly posted for the world to see. A website cruel.com posts a link to the website
pointing out the costume’s inability to "obscure... male-female connector." with the following summary.
Suddenly, the website gets visited by people who are not interested in seeing a costume out of interest
in workmanship, but rather want to see a fat man in spandex with somewhat overexposed privates. This
website has since been featured on other webpages as well. Unlike some of the scenarios above, this case
involves a specific actor making an effort to recontextualize the content in ways embarrassing for the author,
and cruel.com is one of many websites that specialize in doing exactly that.
5
5.1
Presentation
Presentation of Self
One motivation for privacy concerns is individual’s need to excercise control over their image in the eyes of
others. In this section I broaden the discussion of online photography from privacy to presentation of self
and others.
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Photo collections quite rarely present many photos of the author. This could be due to the difficulty
of taking photos of oneself – Koskinen et al. (2002) report that their subjects took many photos of themselves when provided with a camera with a swiveling body that made it easy to turn the lens back on the
photographer. However, it appears that in some cases the authors make a special effort to not include too
many photographs of themselves. In some cases, a collection may be accompanied with a single photo of
the author, often taken or edited to provide limited information. E.g., the author might use a baby photo of
themselves, a blurry photo or one showing only part of the face. A genealogy site I observed showed a single
baby photo of the author while displaying hundreds of photos of dead ancestors.
Photo collections some times contain a limited amount of text which may focus on the author or the
collection. There is wide variation about how much personal information is presented: it may discuss
authors interests, location, occupation. Such introduction may include varying ammount of information
that identified the author: sometimes full name and an email address, sometimes just the first name, just a
pseudonym, or simply no information about the author at all.
None-the-less, the photo collection as a whole almost always tells quite a bit about the photographer. The
collection may document the author’s travels, it may tell a story about their hobbies, or make a statement
about their artistic sense.
Goffman (1959) distinguishes between expressions of identity that one "gives" vs. those that one "gives
off" - the first involving "verbal symbols or their substitutes... communication in the traditional and narrow
sense," while the latter involves a wider range of actions that others "can treat as symptomatic of the actor,"
in other words can be used to infer things not said explicitely.
At this stage, this section primarily deals with presentation by means of "verbal symbols" and their
"substitutes," leaving the discussion of "given off" expressions till later.
I first discuss the general role and status of narrative in online photography. I then present a preliminary
discussion of the audience and conclude with a brief discussion of presentation of others.
5.2
Narrative
With an exception of professional photography and advanced aesthetic photography, online photos almost
always involve a narrative in one form or another, a story for which the photos are illustrations. The presence
of narrative takes many forms: the stories may be very long as in the case with travel storytelling, short,
as in the case with many photoblogs, or – quite often – they may be completely implicit, though probably
quite obvious to the intended audience. However, there is also a narrative that the photos illustrate. This
narrative may sometimes be hard to notice precisely because it is so pervasive.
To understand the presence of narrative in the photos that are accompanied with almost no verbal
descriptions, it helps to consider one practice where the photos are truly presented without a narrative:
professional artistic photography.
Professional artistic photos are typically decontextualized. While they are creations of the photographer,
they are not meant to illustrate photographer’s life, but are indented to stand on their own. They might
have some metadata ("Olympic Peninsula, Washington", "Nikon", " Fujichrome Velvia"), but those tend
to be either facts about the photos (such as the location where it was taken) or abstract "creative" titles.
Those photos never have captions saying "The egg I ate for lunch", "The woman I met in a bar", or "The
oak near near the house where I grew up."
Sometimes, professional photos do have narration, but the relationship is inverted: the photo is not
an illustration to a narrative, but rather the narration is there to highlight the photo. For instance, the
photographer might tell the visitor about the production process, as in this example accompanying several
"polaroid transfer" images:
The artist can work "live" by shooting his subject with a Polaroid camera and then transfer
the image on the spot or by shooting with 35mm, or similar standard photographic slides and
copying the slide to Polaroid for transferring images at a more convenient time, thus allowing
further variations in exposure and filtering, as well as choosing different receptor materials with
infinite combinations producing completely unique "one of a kind" prints."
In rare cases, we may be told a story that involves the photographer, even giving a glimpse into their
daily routines:
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Figure 2: First three photos from a batch of 19 showing a demolition of a house. While the album has a
title, there is no further text, even though the software used by the website (Gallery) makes it relatively easy
to add captions to individual photos.
I had just got into my hottub when I noticed lightning flashes in the eastern sky. I had to
go and investigate, chasing the storm led me to emerald bay just as the storm moved up Lake
Tahoe. I managed to get 3 photos as the lightning struck into the lake outside the bay, this was
the 2nd of the series of 3.
None-the-less, we see a story about how a photo was created, not a story about a magnificent storm illustrated
with a photo: the narrative culminates by telling us that the photo we have seen was the second of the three
photos taken. In contrast, almost all other activities involving photos use them as illustrations, usually to
stories about the author: this is my kid, this is where I’ve been, this is something I’ve seen, here are the
friends I spend time with, etc.
This difference in use of photos corresponds with another interesting distinction between casual/amateur
and professional photographers. Casual and amateur photographers almost always display photos in batches,
sometimes just a few, but more often 20-50, and sometimes several hundred at a time. Those batches tend
to contain photos from a single event, and the photos within them are chronological. Professional photos
are always presented individually. You can never see two photos that look like they were taken around the
same time. Sites dedicated to professional photography also tend to present less photos overall : professional
collections often have as few as 100 photos, while many amateur collections have hundreds or thousands of
pictures. This may be explained by the need to decontextualize the professional photo. Photos displayed in
batches imply a narrative, especially when arranged chronologically. As a result, they make it easier to see
the photo as an mere illustration of photographer’s life, rather than a work of art that stands on it’s own.
While casual photo collections almost always have a narrative, this narrative is most often invisible and
implied. The most common kind of photo collection presents photos organized into albums or 20-50 photos,
with a short caption for the album and no further text, as exemplified by 2.
This corresponds to the findings reported by Van House et al. (2004), who reported that camera users
show little interest in writing down the narratives that go with photos and instead prefer to rely on live
storytelling while passing around prints or looking at the albums with others. This raises the question,
however, of how the narrative gets performed in case with the online photos. One can imagine several
possibilities:
• The narrative is communicated through other channels, such as email, phone or face-to-face conversation and the site with photos is referenced as a source of illustrations.
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Figure 3: Comments on a photoblog entry.
• The story behind the photos is part of the common ground between the author and the audience. The
narrative does not need to be stated, because the audience is sufficiently familiar with what happened
to be able to recreate the narrative just from the photos.
• The story is communicated mostly through images, as with comics.
• The photos are just the photos - there is no hidden narrative.
Determining which of those are more likely the case would require interviews with the authors and the
audience.
5.3
Audience
In order to understand the role that photos play in presentation of self we need to consider the audience
towards which this presentation is aimed and the authors’ relations with their audience.
Online photo collection contain two main sources of information about the interactions between the
authors and the audience. In some cases, we see the author addressing the audience, which allows us to see
the author’s expectations about the readership.
On some sites we can also see comments left by audience, which similarly allow us to make inferences
about who the audience is. For instance, Figure 3 shows comments left by the audience on a aesthetic
photoblog. We see most of the comments expressing general appreciation, one of the visitors also adding
that he is a regular ("I’ve been watching your blog for a while now") while another one thanks the author
for "kind comments," suggesting that there is a comments are bidirectional in some cases.
This information cannot tell us conclusively for what audience the photos are presented, what audience
ends up viewing them and how the photos are interpreted by the audience. Interviews with authors and
readers would be necessary. However, it does serve as a starting point for discussion of audience. The
analysis of this data remains to be completed.
Our knowledge about the role of community in blogging can provide us with some hypothesis about the
the relationship between the author and the audience in case of photo collections. Prior research on blogging
(see Takhteyev and Hall (2004) for a review) suggested that bloggers publish for several kinds of audiences:
• Everyday friends
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• Friends met through blogging
• Remote families and friends
• Strangers
Some bloggers primarily publish their material for people they saw on a day to day basis. Furthermore,
the content of their blogs is closely integrated with the content of their face-to-face conversations, so that
understanding either one would often require familiarity with the other. I would expect that people the
author sees on a day-to-day basis would be an important audience for online photos as well. This appears
to be the case with at least some of the collections.
People met through blogging are another commonly cited kind of audience for photo bloggers. Such
contacts initiated online may sometimes result in a face-to-face interactions or may stay online-only, at least
for some time. It appears that this kind of audience is common for some kinds of photo practices but not
others. It appears to be particularly common among photobloggers, both the documentary and the artistic
kind, according to the preliminary interviews with photobloggers as well as the nature of the comments they
leave on each other’s sites.
Remote friends and family are present but surprisingly rare among the bloggers (Takhteyev and Hall
(2004)). This kind of audience appears to be important for some types of online photography, for instance
the baby photos (cf. Wilhelm et al., 2004).
Finally, while many bloggers do not specifically post for strangers, many recognize their presense among
the audience. We cannot say at this point whether the authors of photo collections are similarly aware of
the presense of strangers.
5.4
Presentation of Others
Online photos quite often show friends and family members. In rare cases, we see sets of photos dedicated to
another person, often deceased. More often, however, the collection shows the spectrum of author’s friend
and relatives, in a way using the images of friends to tell stories about the invisible author.
On the other hand, there are several types of websites that use photos to present the author while rarely
including photos of others. Personal ads almost always show the subject alone, sometimes showing clear
traces that other people were surgically removed from the photo. Many blogs similarly have a single photo,
often modified to not make the identity of the author too obvious.
5.5
Access Control
Some authors restrict access to some parts of their collections. Understanding the extent and nature of such
restrictions by observing publicly-accessible content is quite difficult, since we have to make judgments about
what we don’t see. Several scenarios are possible. First, some existing sites can be completely unknown to
the public, by being not indexed and not referred to. Needless to say, estimating how common such sites are
is an extremely difficult task.
The second possibility is that the site is know (e.g. there are links to it), but all content is password
protected. Such sites can theoretically be counted, but little else can be learned about them.
The website may be locatable and present the viewer with a catalog of content, some of which may be
restricted. Such sites, while a clear minority, can be extremely instructive, since they allow us to see how
the author partitions the content into public and private.
A site may present the user with content, all of it publicly accessible. Unfortunately, in those cases we
can’t always tell whether the website does not have any restricted content or if the presence of the restricted
content is only revealed to select visitors. "Gallery", a popular software for hosting photos works in precisely
this way. One of the gallery users I observed, tells the visitors about the presence of the hidden albums. In
other cases, however, we don’t know if we are seeing everything.
The remainder of this section discusses the cases where we can see signs of access control.
The most common method of controlling audience is to limit access to sites via authentication or use of
passwords. Authentication involves creation of password protected accounts for visitors and giving different
accounts permission to view different content. Alternatively, the owner can assign a single password for a
particular set of content and distribute this password to all those who she wants to have access to it.
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A common case seems to be for the user to have a large number of public albums, organized in some
reasonably systematic way (e.g. by travel photos by trip), and a few albums that are protected. Those
might sometimes have names that make it possible to guess why this particular album was locked ("More
Me," "Party at Our House" or "Spa Day"), but often it is not really clear. Sometimes locked albums have
meaningful names but it’s not obvious how the album is different from the others (e.g., "1980s" locked, while
"1990s" open). Sometimes it may have a name that can’t be understood without looking inside. (This is
the case with some of the open albums too, but the meaning of the title can sometimes be understood after
looking inside. E.g. "KH", "SHELL", "M.HUNTER". Or the locked album may simply be called "Private"
or "Locked". In the latter case it is unclear if the user is trying to conceal the content of the album, or if
the album is simply a catch-all for things that are too personal to present to everyone. In some cases, the
album caption does specify the content - e.g. "Private: private family photos". Or: "LOCKED: Sorry.. this
is a place where I arrange images and experiment with sequences... Not for the general public: ’Art can be
Magic, but it takes some effort.’"
It is hard to estimate how commonly such methods of access control are used on the web in general due
to difficulty of sampling of what we don’t see. For a particular site, fotki.com, out of 1000 sampled users
about %40 had content with restricted access. It is impossible to determine what percentage of content was
thus protected, since we cannot estimate the number of photos and subalbums in protected albums.
It is particularly interesting that even people who have a few locked albums, would often have a large
number of images that might be potentially sensitive (children, partial-nudity, compromising positions, etc.)
which are public.
There are several other methods one can control access to the site, for instance by keeping the site out
of view by controlling links to it. Unfortunately, those methods cannot be studied via observation of public
sites.
6
Activities
Putting photos online is hardly a homegenous practice, which limits our ability to talk about privacy and
identity management issues with all personal photos online at the same time. At the same time, people do
not put photos online in a million idiosyncratic ways. Instead, one can see clear patterns of activity. I will
refer to those patterns as "practices."
In this section I describe a number of such practices involving photos, focusing on non-professional
practices involving presentation of photos on the internet. I base those descriptions on the data collected in
this study and are illustrated with examples from the data. I also include several other practices in order to
show online photo practices in a broader context, which I described based on literature.
I focus on types of practices rather than types of users, since some users may be actively practicing
several types of practices, with the described practices playing rather minor roles in their lives. In many
cases, however, each practice corresponds to a community of people practicing it and thus does to some
extend define groups of participants.
It is also important to note that in the course of this study I did not observe actual practices. Rather,
most of the data collection involved observation of artifacts, which were then taken as signs of practices. The
inference of practices from observable artifacts is of course never a straight-forward matter. I believe that
this inference is justified by the fact artifacts provide one of the best (albeit limited) source of information
about a wide range of practices.
It would be tempting to group observed artifacts into "genres." However, the term "genre" has strong
theoretical connotations in modern literature, and it is not my intention at this point to take part in the
discussion of whether blogs, photoblogs, or travel photography constitute a genre, as discussed, for instance,
by Herring, Scheidt, Bonus, and Wright (2004).
The set of practices I describe are not intended as a classification system. Rather, they are ideal types
which I should help the reader understand the world of photography today. The real-world practices often
mix many of the described practices and continuums are more common than sharp boundaries.
On the highest level, I group photography practices into four large classes:
• professional photography (photography as a job)
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• photography as a hobby (photography-centered practices that require substantial time, but are not used
as a source of income)
• photography as a tool (time-intensive practices that are not about photography per-se but rely on
photography as a tool)
• casual photography (photography practices that do not require serious time commitment)
This study is primarily interested in the last three classes (and especially in the casual photography).
However, I am including a description of professional photography because it provides an important comparison point.
6.1
Professional Photography
I start with a discussion of professional photography, to have it available for comparison while discussing
non-professional photography. There are three main ways of using photography as a source of income:
photography for hire, photography for sale and photojournalism. The first of those two practices lack a clear
boundary, since a lot of people who practice one also engage in the other. Photojournalism appears to be a
rather separate practice.
6.1.1
Photography for Sale
One way to earn income with photography is to take photos and sell them as prints, books or postcards
to whoever is willing to pay. The more successful photo sellers might have downtown galleries selling their
prints or books. Others may go to county fairs or sell their photos online (see Figure 4 and 5).
Another venue is to sell "stock photography" to companies for promotional purposes: advertising and
various promotional materials frequently need illustrations of fairly generic kinds (e.g. "a happy family" or
"a college-bound young woman"), making it possible to use photographs that were taken for other reasons.
"Stock photographs" do not have to be as good as to be worth displaying on the wall, and their are not
taken for the purpose of illustrating a particular story. It appears, though, that stock photographers do have
some hypothetical stories in mind when taking or promoting their photos. There are many books that teach
the tricks of the trade for stock photography and this description is largely based on those sources, as well
as on my observations of a number of professional websites selling stock photography.
Note that many photographers seem to do both prints and stock, and a few do just prints. (I haven’t
seen any people who just do stock.) Those who do both sometimes distinguish between images that can be
sold for promotional purposes and those that can’t. An interesting thing about stock photography is that
this is one rare case where photos get meticulously annotated, since the photographer needs to make sure
that someone looking for a photo of "a happy middle class Hispanic girl on a scooter" would find their shot.
Currently it seems that people mostly use keywords. However, in addition to content, another important
dimension that is used to constrain photos is licensing and price. E.g., the buyer might really be looking for
"photo of happy middle class Hispanic girl on a scooter for print ad, with 100000 copies, for under $5000."
(The photographers will often state that they will charge different prices for print vs. digital, commercial
vs. non commercial and also depending on the number of copies.)
Stock photography can also be found on websites not affiliated with specific photographers, either selling
images from many different photographers or even anonymous ones (see Figure 8).
Many photographers who sell their work do so through a website. Such websites need to project a
particular image of the photographer as an artist, while at the same time not sacrificing practical functionality
- the visitors need to be able to navigate the site successfully to find the prints they like and purchase them.
Professional websites frequently feature photographs of other people, often nude women. Concerns about
privacy of the subjects can be partly assuaged by the fact that such subjects are almost exclusively models
who receive compensation for the exposure. If the images are to be used for promotional purposes, subject’s
consent is required, resulting in a system somewhat resembling that proposed by Laudon (1996).
When the photographer sells prints or books, they are selling their view of a scene of their choice. The
resulting work can be viewed as a statement about the customer, but only in as much as the customer chose
this particular work over others. The work is not inherently about the customer.
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Figure 4: A section of a photography website selling prints online. This photographer also sells prints at
fairs.
Figure 5: Another example of a selling of prints online. This photographer also sells stock photography.
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Figure 6: Interface for search stock images on a photographer’s website.
Figure 7: Use of keywords to support stock photography search.
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Figure 8: A stock photography website not affiliated with a specific photographer.
6.1.2
Photographers for Hire
Another way to earn income from photography is to sell one’s services. In this case, a client hires a photographer for an assignment. One kind of assignment is events like weddings. A photographer is hired to be there
for a few hours and take a certain number of photos. Studio photography is another kind of photography
for hire. Typically the client shows up in the studio and gets a number of photos of them taken, ranging
from a few to hundreds. Sometimes, instead of getting a payment the photographer gets the right to sell
the photos or to use them to promote their work. The third kind is corporate assignment. Here, instead
of going to look through stock photographs to illustrate their materials, a company hires a photographer to
produce good illustrations (Peterson, 1990). The photographer might spend some time taking photos (e.g.
shots of the plant, headquarters, the surroundings), and eventually produce a few high quality photographs.
The photographer may get the right to use the photos for other purposes.
Unlike in the case with photography for sale, the photographer helps the customer create the desired
representation of a scene of customer’s chosing. Thus, the work may often say more about the customer
than it does about the photographer or the subjects actually featured in the photo. Identity management of
the customer (individually or as a member of a group) is thus usually the focus of this kind of photography.
6.1.3
Photojournalism
Those are the people behind the photos in newspapers. They don’t tend to have websites showcasing their
work and are thus a bit harder to study. Finding images that correspond to this practice is of course easy
to find by perusing paper or online newspapers (see Figure 9).
However, the inability to observe a collection of images by a single photographer makes it harder to
understand this practice. Interviews with news photographers would be required.
6.2
Casual Photography
Casual photography involves using cameras as a way of documenting or supporting mainstream practices.
It is the most common way of using photography, though it tends to play a rather small role in the lives of
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Figure 9: A news website featuring a photograph.
those who practice it. Casual photography is practiced by normal everyday people that tend to do normal
everyday things.
6.2.1
Party and Friends Photography
Taking photos of drunk friends at parties or concerts appears is the most common use of a digital camera
based on the online photo collections that I observed (see Figure 10). Many people – predominantly teenagers
and young adults – take photos at parties, concerts and other social events. An large number of those photos
feature drunk subjects and some collections seem to be almost exclusively focused on drinking events. A
lot of those photos seem to be "We were all there" or "John was really really drunk" or "Mary was really
drunk doing things she wouldn’t want to remember next day" kind. There seems to be a sense of social
documentation to them: things we did together. When presented online, those photos typically have either
no comments, but may some times have captions that are meant to be funny or (much less often) names of
people in the photos.
This kind of photography raises privacy concerns in the most obvious ways: the photos often embarassing
views of subjects that are either protesting against being photographed, or (more often) appear to be too
drunk to know what’s going on. On a more subtle level, such photographs can be seen as a way of managing
identity through exposing social connections: the author showcases their friends, unvoidably making a
statement about themselves. At the same time, and perhaps more importantly, capturing joint activities on
film the photographer establishes their membership in the group (Chalfen, 1987).
6.2.2
Special Event Photography
A variation on party photography is photography at special events. Unlike party photography which features
regular events, special events involve birthdays (see Figure 11), holiday gatherings, graduations, weddings.
I didn’t see any online photo collections that are primarily dedicated to special events presumably because
one usually doesn’t attend enough of them to make it worthwhile to set up a website.
6.2.3
Travel Photography
Traveler photography involves taking photos of places where one travels. The photos are then often organized
chronologically with place names for album titles, e.g. "Budapest, Summer 2003". Some people pose in their
travel photos, but there seems to be a tendency to switch to just the views (no people) and landmarks as the
number of photos increases. Very few amateurs take photos of strangers while traveling – such photography
appears to be almost exclusively the domain of professionals or highly advanced amateurs. (Subjects from
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Figure 10: Party photos - by a woman. Note that most photos are posed group photos - very common for
photos of this genre.
Figure 11: A photo from a birthday from a collection mostly dedicated to parties.
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Figure 12: Photos from a photo collection primarily dedicated to travel photos. Photos appear to be
organized by trip. The photographer is not present in any of the photos.
preliminary interviews report a number of concerns about photographing strangers and being outside of ones
home area seems to amplify those.)
Travel photography is a practice with a long history, and it’s film version has been discussed by a number
of authorities. In 1977 Sontag, 1977 wrote: "Thus, photography develops in tandem with one of the most
characteristic human activities: tourism... Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs..."
Travel photographs tend to have more systematic annotations (usually dedicated to the location) than
most other photographs. People who practice such photography may be willing to provide even more
systematic annotations if they had an easy way to do so.
Travel photography as an ideal type is typically one of the few kinds of photography practiced by an
individual. In some cases, however, it may be mixed or combined with other kinds of practices. For instance,
foreign locations can become yet another context for "blogging with photos" (described below). In such
cases, it may be heavily influenced by the other practices: e.g. people who often take photos of "random"
things for their blog in their home local may also take photos of "random" things while traveling.
Travel photography raises several interesting issues regarding identity management. On one hand, travel
photographs can serve as "tropheys," testifying to the owner’s extensive travels. On the other hand, travel
photographs present the image of the travel destination, which can then affect the identity of the residents.
Tourist photos posted online may sometimes dominate the online presentation of a place. Photography’s
ability to invade and approriate a scene has led some authors to discuss the aggressive nature of tourist
photography (Sontag, 1977).
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Figure 13: Part of a website dedicated to photos of relatives from the last 120 years. Names are blurred.
6.2.4
Kid Photography
People often take photos of their children and the birth of the first kid is often cited as a common reason to
buy a camera. Presentation of such photographs online creates an obvious privacy concern, since children
cannot provide consent to such presentation.
However, when it comes to observable public photos online, websites dedicated to photos of children
are less common when one might expect. Those that can be found (still quite numerous) often feature
password protected photos – a lot more often then with other kind of photos. This creates a challenge for
understanding kid photography by means of observation of public sites. Therefore, interviews with people
who photograph kids are essential to understand this practice.
Collections dedicated to kids often present other aspects of parent’s lives organized around the kid’s life
along the lines of "Daniel in Seattle", "Danik in Las Vegas", "Danik in Saint Louis Zoo" (actual titles).
6.2.5
Family Historians
Some online collections tell family history through old photos. Those collections may look like modern
family albums, just stretching back further into the past. Alternatively, they could have of a genealogical
feel (Figure 13).
Despite the important role of printed family photo albums in constructing family history which was
documented earlier (Chalfen, 1987) and more recently (Van House et al., 2004), family history albums are
rather rare compared to other photo collections. The explanation may lie in the fact that older family
photos need to be scanned (a labor intensive procedure compared to the ease of putting digital photos
online). Alternatively, it is possible that online presentation is not see as appropriate for preservation of
family history due to it’s perceived unreliability.
6.3
Photography as a Hobby
This group of practices consists of hobbies that involve photography as a major component.
6.3.1
Aesthetic Photography
Aesthetic photography is similar to professional photography in terms of the photos taken, but is practiced
by people who have a different day job and thus do not rely on photography as a source of income. Websites
showcasing such photographs may present work of professional quality, but tend to differ from professional
websites in a number of ways.
Unlike professional photographers who tend to be very protective of their work, non-professionals tend
to share their work much more openly. They don’t seem to be as concerned about their work being stolen as
many pros are, presumably because they do not depend on it to pay their bills. (They do, though, frequently
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Figure 14: A page from a ”photoblog” showing a black-and-white photo and minimalistic navigation. The
author describes this composition as a ”triptych” aiming to show the past, present and future of NYC
architecture. (Courtesy Cory Canover.)
include copyright notices, unlike casual photographers.) Like professionals, they talk about their work in
terms of light, color, texture, composition. They buy the most professional and expensive camera they can
afford, typically paying over $500. Some people who present aesthetic photography online use film cameras
and scan the images. (The only other group actively using scanning are the family archivists who scan
pre-digital photos. Other than that, people who intend to present their photos on the web typically use
digital cameras now, since scanning requires a lot of work.)
Some of the websites displaying such photography are sometimes referred to as "photoblogs," due to the
fact that some of them may resemble blogs structurally. The same term, however, is also used to described
a very different kind of practice, which I call "blogging with photos" below.
Such websites tend to present individual images, usually without narrative, in a way that encourages the
visitor to look for the artistic qualities of the image. Such collections also differ from professional websites
in that they often show many more photos sometimes presenting a new photo almost every day.
Non-professionals sites tend to be open to experimenting with presentation formats, often using unique
design. Unlike casual sites, which often rely on third party design, or professional sites, which differ in
look-and-feel but follow a common organization paradigm, non-professional aesthetic photography sites may
vary quite radically in navigation approaches. This differences can perhaps be explained by the fact that
professional websites are constrained by having to serve a utilitarian purpose (i.e. to sell the photographer’s
work or services) while casual photographers lack interest in design or the relevant skills. Non-professionals,
on the other hand, are free to use the site design as an artistic medium and have the interest and skills for
doing so.
Other aesthetic photographers present their work on websites dedicated to photo critique. The members
typically present their work – one photo at a time – for other members to see, who provide critique and
suggestions for improvement. The photographers tend to accompany their photos with an explanation of
how the photo was obtained, often with a lot of technical detail, as we can see in Figure 15.
// Live critter on a white building. This is full frame. It is about as much magnification as I can get out
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Figure 15: A page from a photography community dedicated to photo reviews, showing author’s description
of the photo together with technical details.
of my current equipment. Working distance was about 1.5 inches (as it typically is when reversing a 50mm
on a longer lens). I estimate it is 4x lifesize. DOF is paper thin at this magnification, so I composited 4
successive frames to increase it. Not an easy image to get, but I had been trying to fill the frame with a fly’s
face for a few years now.
6.3.2
Photoengineering
Digital photos are sometimes integrated into technology-rich projects which display interest in imaging but
not in aesthetics. Some of those projects appear to be purely recreational, while others want to use the
all-seeing eye of photography for a social cause.
One particularly common kind of practice involves attempting to collaboratively create collections of
photos coded with location, or "geotagged". An example of such a project is californiacoastline.org - a
website featuring a collection of photos of California coast line taken from a helicopter. The visitor can
find a photo of any point along the California coast by searching for geographical names. According to the
website, the aim of the project is to document human damage to the coastline of California. The project
invites volunteers to study the photos for signs of illegal construction and other types of environmental
violations.
The Degree Confluence project (http://confluence.org/) is a "non-profit international research project...
designed to record a sampling of the earth’s geography by visiting every point on land where a degree of
latitude crosses a degree of longitude" (The Degree Confluence Project (2004)). The visitors can view search
for "confluence" points by country and look at the photos taken there by volunteers around the world,
accompanied by brief narratives. (See Figure 16 for an example of a page documenting a location.) The
visitors are also invited to visiting the remaining points and submit their photos.
Some of the photoengineering projects, especially those focusing on geolocation, are interesting due to
their attempt to create global stores of images. For instance, few personal sites dedicated to travel photos
can compare with the Degree Confluence Project in their ability to represent the world as a whole.
6.3.3
Blogging with Photos
Many people take photos to document their lives or the small things they see around them, either paying
no attention to technical quality of the photos or at least seeing it as secondary. They may take photos of
things they see around them, events they attend, food they eat. They may take photos of people they spend
time with, but the accent is on documenting experiences rather than presenting social relationships. This
practice benefits from a relatively small camera, and appears to be the only practice making significant use
of camera phones.
Photos taken to document daily life may be presented in a format quite similar to standard text blogs:
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Figure 16: Illustrated description of a successful visit from from the Degree Confluence Project
(http://confluence.org).
an index page with dated entries featured in reversed chronological order. This format appears to be
becoming increasing popular. There are many people, however, who take similar kinds of photos yet use
different organization schemes. On the other hand, blogs as a format may be used to support quite different
practices, e.g. aesthetic photography.
Blogs with photos may in some cases create a detailed representation of individual’s life. More often,
however, they focus on things encountered by the individual, which are non-the-less external to their identity.
For example, one site I observed displays daily photos of pieces of trash encountered by the author. While
the very creation of such a site may lead us to some inferences about the author, we learn almost nothing
about his life from the photos.
6.3.4
Travel Storytelling
As will be discussed later, almost all photographic practices involve storytelling of some sort. There is a
particular kind of practice, however, that makes use of personal photos to illustrate stories in the full sense
of the word. This genre of websites presents extended stories, usually dedicated to authors travel, illustrated
with some photos. Unlike most other kinds of websites discussed in this section, those travel stories could
easily be imagined without the photos. This once popular practice is seemingly becoming rare, as blogs
emerge as a more popular form of textual narrative on the web. With blogs, however, if photos are present
at all, they tend to play a more central position.
Travel storytelling shares privacy and identity management concerns with travel photography, with the
difference that representation of the remote location is typically more purposeful.
6.3.5
Amateur Pornography
Some people take naked photos of themselves or others and put them online. On fotki.com, a typical
collection shows a few photos and invites the visitors to request access to the rest - which are locked. The
access is typically offered in exchange for access to other similar collections. Sometimes, the albums are
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Figure 17: A passage from a story about a trip to India, illustrated with a few photos. The story features 4
photos for 13 paragraphs of text.
locked yet the visitor is told the password in the album description.
Participants in such practices run unique risks, since both production and consumption of pornography is
often disapproved in most societies, and the disclore of their participation in this practice can thus potentially
lead to negative social consequences.
6.4
Photography as a tool
People who have some hobby unrelated to photography, sometimes make use photography to document or
support their hobby.
6.4.1
Presenting Collections
People who collect things, sometimes put online photos of their collections. For instance, one of the collections
I observed featured hundreds of photos of color chips for car models, as illustrated in Figure 19.
At this point, I do not understand this practice sufficiently well to discuss privacy and identity management issues associated with it.
6.4.2
Documenting Projects
Some people use photography to document things they build. Those are usually presented as narratives
illustrated with a lot of photos. E.g., a costume someone made for Halloween, internet-controlled Christmas
lights, etc. Some of those are presented in the context of a community interested in those kind of projects.
Figure 20 shows an example of a project description from mini-itx.com - a website dedicated to case mod
projects (building custom computer cases). Alternatively, people post the stories on their own websites,
sometimes preceding them with comments like "Many of you have asked about..."
6.5
Other Uses
There are a lot of other things that people do with photos, which, however, are small parts of their life.
E.g., I looked at housing ads and personal ads. Both of those involve photos, but they don’t really define a
regular practice, but are rather things people do occasionally.
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Figure 18: Two locked albums on fotki.com. Note that the password to one of the albums is offered for
trade, while the password to the other is given away in a riddle-like way - ”chemical formula where one might
surf”.
Figure 19: A collections of color chips on fotki.com.
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Figure 20: A project from mini-itx.com. Each photo is accompanied by one or two sentences of text. Note
the chronological list of other featured projects on the left hand side.
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