Current Event:, busted?

By hmu2 at 9:23 am on February 16, 2009 | 2 Comments

According to a recent article from Business Week, a photo-sharing site,, has crossed the line between maintaining personal privacy and extortion. This site allows users to post incriminating pictures of friends without proof that his or her permission to use the photos has been given. The “busted” friend can remove the photos, but only after paying a fee to become a member of the YoBusted site. According to the article, at least four people found photos on the site that had been taken from their Facebook profiles and posted on YoBusted without their permission and inaccurately tagged with their names (thus wrongly accusing them of participating in the activities depicted in the photos). Facebook has alerted the FBI against this site claiming that posting the pictures was a violation of Facebook’s terms of service and that the site is unlawfully requiring payment for picture removal. YoBusted claims that it provides many services (not just removing pictures) that justify charging a fee to use their site and that in order to maintain the attractiveness of the site, will remove photos under their discretion without charging a fee.

Besides the obvious personal security concerns of having embarrassing photos posted online without the individual’s permission, there are larger issues here: anyone can make a website that can provide almost any service they want. YoBusted is an incorporated company using a legally registered domain to provide a service that allows anyone to be the paparazzi and everyone to be the next big tabloid story. This site is the encarnation of a common public desire: gossip, only people are taking it more personally when it’s their face plastered all over a website instead of some big movie star or politician. Quite frankly, I think this site is teaching users a valuable lesson: don’t put embarrassing photos of yourself on the internet and increase the privacy settings on your social networking sites.

I think another big issue highlighted by this controversy is that individuals are no longer in control of their online reputations. It seems that even a person who has never accessed the internet can’t escape some amount of information about themselves being somewhere online. The underlying question is how can people combat something they can’t even detect? Are internet users (and non-internet users for that matter) really expected to constantly surf the web to ensure no one has posted something about them without their permission?

People will most likely react to this site’s attempt to provide a “valuable” service with concern and fear, which will hopefully encourage them to take down embarrassing photos of themselves and increase their privacy settings online.  In the broader social context, maybe this issue will make people think twice before they do something stupid. I doubt it, but for humanity’s sake, I can at least give them the benefit of the doubt.

Note: is currently “Under Construction”. I’d be interested to know if this is a direct result of Facebook’s accusations and/or other political/social influences.

Filed under: Current Events,Ethics2 Comments »