How to Avoid Unwanted Photos on Social Media

Thanks to smartphones, everyone has a camera in their pocket. With people documenting everything from get-togethers to their beauty routines, nearly all social occasions, even those that should be kept private, tend to end up online. Eventually, your image is likely to appear in some posts that you don’t like.

Before you stress out, think about your options: you can untag yourself, ask the person to delete the photo or video, or report the post if it violates the platform’s rules. In extreme cases, you may have grounds for a lawsuit.

Here’s what you need to know.

It’s probably legal.

In the United States, whoever takes a photo is the copyright holder and therefore generally has the freedom to share the photo wherever they want, especially if it was taken at a public event, said Mallory King, an attorney. in copyright and internet law at Traverse. Legal in Michigan.

“If they’re not trying to defame you or commercialize the photo, posting it on their social media page is probably fine,” Ms King said. If your friend didn’t take the photo, however, reposting it without permission may be illegal, she added. If you photographed it, you can report the post as your intellectual property for the social media site to remove.

The rules vary in other countries. Under French law, people must generally give their consent before they can be photographed in private places or before images of them can be published. And anyone found guilty of posting a person’s image without permission can face up to a year in prison, although the country’s privacy regulator is urging people to request removal of images before filing a complaint.

It’s still unethical.

While the person posting your image without permission may be legally authorized to do so, it could raise ethical concerns. They don’t know what impact it might have on your life outside of the event. Maybe you’re looking for a new job and don’t want your future boss to see you at a bachelorette party.

“You might feel very exposed or feel like your privacy has been violated if you see the photo online but haven’t given permission,” said manners and manners expert Elaine Swann. founder of the Swann School of Protocol in California.

A lot of people are not at all comfortable appearing online. And even those who agree sometimes want to control what is displayed.

If you’re job hunting and don’t want potential employers to see your social media history, you can temporarily deactivate your account. On the iPhone app for Facebook from Meta Platforms, do this by going to Settings and privacy > under Account, select Personal and account information > Account ownership and control > Deactivation and deletion. On the Instagram app, tap Settings > Account > Delete account > Deactivate account. You can keep these accounts deactivated for as long as you want and simply log back in to unlock them.



you can deactivate your account for 30 days by tapping Settings & privacy > Your account > Deactivate your account. But you must reactivate it within one month or your account will be permanently deleted.

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On Instagram and Twitter, which are public by default for adults, you can also make your profile private. This limits what people who don’t follow you can see. On Instagram, tap Settings > Privacy and switch to Private account. On Twitter, go to Settings & privacy > Privacy & security > Audience & tagging, then slide the Protect your Tweets switch to on.

If you’re particularly sensitive, you can choose not to have a profile at all, although that won’t stop people from sharing images of you. They can still post photos and videos, but you won’t be tagged and you might not know about them.

What you can do.

Social media platforms have different rules for posting photos of other people.

Twitter is the strictest. In November, the company prohibits people share personal images or videos of individuals without their consent. This includes taking a selfie with someone but not agreeing to let them tweet it. If someone posts it on Twitter without your permission, it’s “private media.” You can report when this happens by tapping the “three dots” icon at the top right of the tweet or by navigating to Twitter Help Center. Repeat offenders will have their accounts permanently deleted, Twitter said.

There is a caveat. Photos taken of people in public, such as at a protest or sporting event, do not violate the rules. Twitter says that if the post is in the public interest or is publicly available on other “mainstream channels”, the photo may not be removed.

Facebook and Instagram prohibit the sharing of “intimate” photos such as sexually revealing posts or other adult content. But unwanted or unflattering photos are not grounds for removal. Facebook has a “Report” link on photos and videos to report potential violations.

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Even if the photo doesn’t violate Facebook’s rules, you can opt out to remove any sign of the post on your profile. Click the three-dot menu on the image or video and choose “Remove Tag”. Next, go to your privacy settings and adjust your “Profile & Tagging” options to set it up so you have to approve all future tagged photos before they appear on your timeline.

On Instagram, tap the three-dot symbol that appears above the post to report it. You can also adjust your tagged settings by tapping Settings > Privacy > Messages > then scroll down to Tagged messages and select “on” under Manually approve tags.

Deleting tags doesn’t delete photos, but it can limit how your connections see them. On Facebook, the images will not appear on your profile.

Sometimes it’s not that bad.

Etiquette experts and legal scholars say the best way to avoid being tagged in unwanted group photos is to be clear about where you stand and where the content would be posted if you compelled it. You should do this before the shutter releases. Fortunately, there are ways to act without being a buzzkill.

Giving your friends a reason why you don’t want to be photographed can make them more likely to comply, experts have said. This applies before the photo is taken, or if you find yourself online and want the photo deleted. Ask politely, etiquette experts say.

If you still want to join in the festivities and be in some photos, stand at the end of the group photos so you can be cropped before someone posts an image you may not like, a said Ms. Swann.


Do you consider the privacy of others before posting group photos? Why or why not? Join the conversation below.

In recent years, some people have banned social media posts or banned phones altogether at their weddings. If you are hosting an event, you can set the ground rules.

But sometimes you just have to give up.

“If you’re going to ask someone to delete a message, it should be for something very upsetting or damaging your reputation,” said Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Texas. “If it’s pure ego and you don’t like the way you smile, you really need to think twice about it.”

No matter how sensitive you are to shared photos, don’t forget to consider your friends’ preferences. If they ask you to delete something or not share an image of them, respect their wishes.

“Be thoughtful,” Ms. Swann said. “It works both ways.”

Write to Dalvin Brown at [email protected]

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