When Snap(chat) announced Spectacles a couple of weeks ago I was impressed by the sleek design, which will undoubtedly appeal to its users, primarily teens and other young adults. But the announcement left me wondering what it means for the privacy of these users. Snapchat is thought of as the most privacy-friendly social medium because of the way posts disappear, but with Spectacles, they now want to preserve our memories. This has huge privacy implications. Because what if you are in someone else’s memory but don’t want it shared? What can you do? The answer may lie with Do Not Snap.
The right to online privacy continues to be much debated. Just recently an 18-year-old sued her parents for posting embarrassing childhood photos on Facebook. Usually it’s the other way around and it’s the parents that worry about their children’s (online) behavior. And in case of Snap’s Spectacles, maybe rightly so.
The internet can be quick to destroy a person’s life because of a stupid (or out of context) update, picture or movie that you or somebody else posted online. Now, Spectacles will make it very easy to capture and share more stupid things. Think about it: when you were young, as young as most Snapchat users, how many stupid things did you do? I know I did a lot. And I don’t regret it, because that is what you do when you grow up. This is how you grow. But you don’t want this stupid stuff online.
Here at our Innovation Labs we believe this can be achieved. We demonstrated so through our project called Do Not Snap. The philosophy behind Do Not Snap is that Snapchat – or any social media – should automatically recognize when a user doesn’t want their image shared, and take action on it. This is a realistic ambition, as we demonstrated in a prototype earlier this year. We created an algorithm that recognized when people in an image were wearing a button with our DoNotSnap logo. Whenever this button is visible, the person wearing it will be blurred when the picture is posted online.
We created the Do Not Snap prototype to demonstrate an easy solution for better online privacy. However, any comprehensive solution for online privacy will need to be implemented in the apps and devices that make these pictures and the social media to which they are posted. The industry behind this, which offers us great opportunities for those who want to share their lives, should also offer solutions for those that don’t want images of themselves distributed. If Snap wants to maintain its status as most privacy friendly social medium, they should lead the industry into this direction, and achieve the greatest pivot to privacy ever.
For Snap, or anybody else who wants to pick up this challenge, we open sourced our solution. Development was done by Max Klyga. The code repository can be found here.