Facebook is trying to stop people from stealing users’ profile pictures.
On Wednesday, the social network announced new tools designed to protect people’s images from theft — preventing others from downloading them or even screenshotting the images.
If you’ve never had your profile picture stolen — lucky you. But it’s a serious problem, with fraudsters, trolls, and scammers often stealing the identity of others by harvesting the info they list publicly on Facebook.
Sometimes, The Independent reported earlier this year, the thieves even build false profiles then approach victims’ friends in order to scam them.
A quick Google search shows just how widespread the problem is, with countless people complaining online or offering impromptu guides on how to try and protect yourself.
As a result, some users are even forgoing adding profile pictures entirely — something that is bad news for Facebook. “Not everyone feels safe adding a profile picture,” Facebook product manager Arati Soman wrote in a blog post.
“In our research with people and safety organisations in India, we’ve heard that some women choose not to share profile pictures that include their faces anywhere on the internet because they’re concerned about what may happen to their photos.”
The new profile picture guard tool, which is being piloted in India, does four key things. It stops people from downloading your profile picture, or sharing it, or sending it in a Facebook message. It stops non-friends from tagging anyone including themselves in it. It stops people taking screenshots (where possible, which is only on Android smartphones at the moment). And it adds “a blue border and shield around your profile picture as a visual cue of protection.”
Facebook is offering another option to its users — a way to overlay a pattern on top of their profile picture. Why? Because “based on preliminary tests, we’ve learned that when someone adds an extra design layer to their profile picture, other people are at least 75% less likely to copy that picture.”
These new tools are currently only available in India, though the social network says it plans to expand it to other countries “soon.” A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for more info on which other countries should expect it, and when.
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