Facebook is testing a new feature that protects your profile picture, the most public part of your account.
The new feature means that people will no longer be able to download, share, or send your profile picture in a message on Facebook.
It will also mean that people who you aren’t friends with won’t be able to tag people in your profile photo, and most impressively it will stop people from taking a screenshot of your profile picture, although this feature currently only works on Android phones.
Facebook’s security settings are fairly robust, but at present there's a certain amount of public information that anyone can see, and this includes your profile photo. The abuse of this information is more widespread than you might think.
According to Marc Goodman’s book Future Crimes, there are 600,000 Facebook accounts hacked per day. One of the ways that people can gain access to your personal information is by ‘cloning’ accounts.
The perpetrator takes all the publicly available information on an account (including your profile picture and name) and then creates a new account, adding the friends of the original account and gaining access to all of their information that is ‘friends only’.
Your Facebook profile may seem like a fairly innocuous thing for someone to gain access to, but given that your account usually has where you work, your date of birth, and your full name, it makes identity theft a lot easier.
Also, things that are typically used as password reminders like your mother’s maiden name, your pet’s name, or the school you went to are usually part of your account, making your other accounts vulnerable too.
All of this is without mentioning catfishing, the technique whereby someone creates a false identity using your pictures so that they can create a relationship online, usually with someone that they wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) have a relationship with.
Protecting profile pictures is a really good step to preventing these abuses, and so we welcome the trial. At present, it's only running in India, but Facebook has said: “we hope to expand to other countries soon”. When it starts expanding to other countries we'll let you know.
- Want to read more about the work Facebook is doing to keep you safe? Check out our piece: Facebook is stepping up efforts to curb violent videos
- We’ve chosen the best identity theft protection solutions of 2018
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Andrew London is a writer at Velocity Partners. Prior to Velocity Partners, he was a staff writer at Future plc.