Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

5/21/2009
11:58 AM
Dark Reading
Dark Reading
Products and Releases
50%
50%

Half Of Social Networking Sites Keep Users' Photos After Deletion: Study

University of Cambridge study examined 16 popular Web sites that host user-uploaded photos,including social networking sites, blogging sites, and dedicated photo-sharing sites

Researchers from the University of Cambridge today announced the results of a new study demonstrating that many social networking sites maintain copies of user photos after users delete them. This could be an unpleasant surprise to users who believe they have deleted an embarrassing photo, only to find out it is still available on the web.

The study examined 16 popular web sites which host user-uploaded photos, including social networking sites, blogging sites, and dedicated-photo-sharing sites. 7 of the 16 sites surveyed were still maintaining copies of users' photos after 30 days.

To perform their experiment, the researchers uploaded photos to each of the 16 sites, then deleted them, but kept note of direct URLs to the photos from the sites' content delivery networks.

These links continued to work even though a typical user would think the photos were permanently deleted. There is no simple interface to tell when a photo has ultimately been purged from a site due to the technical details of how photos are stored.

It is common practice for Web 2.0 sites to store user photos on servers run by a different company. The popular sites Facebook, MySpace, and hi5, for example, all serve photos from the content delivery network run by Akamai Technologies, Inc.

As this study found, by keeping note of the URL where the photo is actually stored in a content delivery network, it is possible to access the photo even after a user believes they have deleted it. Any mention of this behaviour is usually buried in obscure legal language in a site's terms and conditions.

Social networking sites fared especially poorly in the study, with 4 of 8 failing to remove deleted photos, including industry leaders Facebook, MySpace, hi5, and Bebo. Blogging sites also fared poorly, with LiveJournal, Xanga, and SkyRock all failing to remove photos.

Faring well in the study were the dedicated photo-sharing sites Flickr, Photobucket, and Fotki, which all removed photos within 1 hour. Three Google-operated websites, Blogger, Picasa, and Orkut, all removed photos within 48 hours. Microsoft's Windows Live Spaces received special commendation for removing photos instantly.

The study was conducted by PhD students Joseph Bonneau, Jonathan Anderson, Andrew Lewis, and S"ren Preibusch, and lecturer Frank Stajano, who have been researching social networking privacy and have reported numerous other flaws.

Said Joseph Bonneau, "This demonstrates how social networking sites often take a lazy approach to user privacy, doing what's simpler rather than what is correct. It's imperative to view privacy as a design constraint, not a legal add-on."

Said Jonathan Anderson, "This experiment is a litmus test of which online services actually believe that you own your personal data".

Contacts --------

Joseph Bonneau

phone: 01223 763793 mobile: 07590 677117

Jonathan Anderson

phone: 01223 763747 mobile: 07971 254416

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Why Cyber-Risk Is a C-Suite Issue
Marc Wilczek, Digital Strategist & CIO Advisor,  11/12/2019
6 Small-Business Password Managers
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  11/8/2019
Unreasonable Security Best Practices vs. Good Risk Management
Jack Freund, Director, Risk Science at RiskLens,  11/13/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-18885
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-14
fs/btrfs/volumes.c in the Linux kernel before 5.1 allows a btrfs_verify_dev_extents NULL pointer dereference via a crafted btrfs image because fs_devices->devices is mishandled within find_device, aka CID-09ba3bc9dd15.
CVE-2019-18895
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-14
Scanguard through 2019-11-12 on Windows has Insecure Permissions for the installation directory, leading to privilege escalation via a Trojan horse executable file.
CVE-2019-18957
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-14
Microstrategy Library in MicroStrategy before 2019 before 11.1.3 has reflected XSS.
CVE-2019-16863
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-14
STMicroelectronics ST33TPHF2ESPI TPM devices before 2019-09-12 allow attackers to extract the ECDSA private key via a side-channel timing attack because ECDSA scalar multiplication is mishandled, aka TPM-FAIL.
CVE-2019-18949
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-14
SnowHaze before 2.6.6 is sometimes too late to honor a per-site JavaScript blocking setting, which leads to unintended JavaScript execution via a chain of webpage redirections targeted to the user's browser configuration.