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Beware of Nosey Neighbors

Posted: September 19, 2014, 11:45 a.m.
by Mary Kathryn Woods.

Some say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but advertising and marketing professionals believe our selfies and social photos are worth so much more. Photos offer unparalleled insight into one’s life, and our generation is sharing them on every social site available.

Like its ancestor — the self-portrait — a selfie provides a peek into one’s personality. Think about the Snapchat selfie you sent an hour ago or the Instagram you posted last weekend. What do they reveal about you? Similarly, by scrolling through photos on social media, we get a glimpse into our friends’ lives — their hobbies, their affiliations, their personal styles and so on. And that’s just what marketing and advertising professionals are eager to do. Companies are anxious to understand how their brands fit into our lifestyles as consumers.

The nosey neighbor

Ditto Labs, a Cambridge, Massachusetts, based firm that provides photo analytics for brands on Twitter, Instagram and now Tumblr, is already snooping through our shared photos and selfies, and it’s using more than binoculars. Ditto uses image-recognition technology to scan our photos for specific logos. If you don’t believe it, visit Ditto’s live feed displaying the top brands trending on social media. Ditto Labs CEO David Rose told Mashable , “If I looked at two years of your photos, I could tell a lot about you. I could see if you’re a sports guy or a foodie…” Additionally, Rose stresses that photo-listening is a necessity for companies to better connect with their consumers and “keep up with the Joneses.”

Ditto emphasizes, “Social photos are like a 24/7 focus group.” Specifically, Ditto’s visual recognition software helps brands discover product use, find important influencers, measure social ROI and uncover brand affinities. Although Ditto Labs was one of the first to the neighborhood, it has some competition. Mashable claims Pinterest’s purchase of VisualGraph and Google’s acquisition of DeepMind suggest other social media sites are interested in gleaning photo-based data.

Are we okay with this trend? Are Ditto’s methods ingenious or disturbing? Clearly the information gathered from our socially shared photos has the potential to revolutionize marketing, advertising and public relations, as we know it. On the other hand, Ditto’s invasive methods are obliterating the little online privacy we have left.

Visual of Ditto Labs scanning photos for logos. (Photo from com)
Visual of Ditto Labs scanning photos for logos. (Photo from com)

They’re not trespassing

Poet Robert Frost once wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Unfortunately, according to social media privacy policies, there aren’t technically any “fences” preventing Ditto Labs and other firms from sifting through our photos, whether we like it or not. For example, Tumblr’s Terms of Service clearly state that all publicly posted content is available to third-party use. But who actually reads the fine print when registering for a new social site?

Not me, and not enough of us. In many circumstances, we obliviously surrender our privacy rights out of pure carelessness. As a generation, we need to be conscious of what we’re sharing online and who has access to it. Essentially, beware before you share.


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