Color CEO pictures world of shared photos (Podcast)
A new service lets people share photos with anyone around them. But are there safety and privacy issues for kids?
Larry Magid is a technology journalist and an Internet safety advocate. He's been writing and speaking about Internet safety since he wrote Internet safety guide "Child Safety on the Information Highway" in 1994. He is co-director of ConnectSafely.org, founder of SafeKids.com and SafeTeens.com, and a board member of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Larry's technology analysis and commentary can be heard on CBS News and CBS affiliates, and read on CBSNews.com. He also writes a personal-tech column for the San Jose Mercury News. You can e-mail Larry.
As Caroline McCarthy reported in her post about the new app, Color is a provocative iPhone and Android application that lets users share photos with anyone around them. Unlike Facebook, Flickr, and other services that allow you to share pictures, Color has practically no privacy settings. As founder Bill Nguyen said in our podcast interview (scroll down to listen), "there's no password, there's no profile, there's no friending...the moment you come into contact with another person that has the Color app, you'll start to see them. You'll see their pictures; you'll see their life; it's all public...everything they take, you have; everything you take, they have." All the pictures you take "go into the cloud." Nguyen said, "we fell in love with the concept of Twitter, which was really that everything is public. Let people know when things are public." He added that "privacy on the Web is almost nonexistent" pointing out that "a service may autotag your picture, so it's not truly, truly private."
Concerns and accountability
I saw the app first hand at Color's offices in Palo Alto, Calif. As I was looking at pictures on Nguyen's iPhone I noticed a couple of young children whose picture was taken by their dad who also works for Color and happened to be in the room. The kids were appropriately dressed and, obviously, this Color staffer knew exactly what he was doing, but it caused me to worry a bit about how others might use the service, especially children and teens, but even adults who might not be thinking about the implications of sharing photos in public.
In addition to making it very clear that everything on Color is public, Nguyen stressed accountability and the cost of violating Color's terms of service (which include avoiding nudity and other inappropriate content). "The amazing thing about smartphones and this post-PC thing that Steve Jobs invented," he said, "is that there is actually real accountability. So when you take pictures in public and in the open using Color, what happens is those pictures come with you, so you're not going to take inappropriate photos because when you go to work those people nearby you at work will see them." Also, because your Color account is linked to your cell phone, the company can determine who you are in case you violate their rules or the law. Ngyuen said that users can block individuals if there is someone they don't want to share photos with.
In its press materials, the company said that it "maintains a strict public use policy to ensure that everything shared is appropriate for all ages" and that "Color requires real-life etiquette and accountability for all actions. Any violation of decency can result in permanent suspension of service for a specific smartphone."
Anne Collier, who is my co-director at ConnectSafely (a nonprofit Internet safety organization), worries that the service could be used by "a bunch of 11-year-olds in various stages of undress, snapping away at a slumber party; or slightly more grown-up people in the late stages of a frat party, experiencing reduced levels of critical thinking." She said that "permanent suspension of service is definitely a deterrent, but there are certain times and situations in our lives when we're not terribly focused on consequences."
For more on privacy issues and the service in general, click below to listen to my 12-minute interview with Bill Nguyen.