A flurry of breathless Facebook messages warn users that a Facebook Page is automatically stealing baby photos from anyone that has the word “baby” written on their Facebook Walls or images and compiling the photos into one place.
The supposed warning is without substance and is the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of how Facebook’s search system operates. The photos are not being stolen. The offending “page” is not a normal Facebook Page at all but rather an “About” page focused on a particular topic. The About page includes automated, aggregated search results for the term. The Page is personalized to individual users and may show a user’s baby photos and those of his or her friends. Other users will see different results. Searching on other terms such as “dogs” or “cats” can result in similar personalized “About” pages complete with images of pets belonging to your Facebook friends. There is nothing sinister about this function and no need for panic.
Dire warnings about a baby photo stealing Facebook Page are causing considerable panic and angst among many Facebook users. The circulating messages warn that a particular Facebook Page is somehow stealing and compiling photos of babies from any users who have the word “baby” written on their Facebook walls or images. The implication is that the offending Page is collecting the baby photos for sinister purposes.
However, the panic is completely unnecessary and the warnings have no validity whatsoever. The warnings have been created by people who are either intent on causing panic and unrest in the Internet community or simply do not understand how Facebook “About” pages and search options function.
The page in question is not a normal Facebook Page, but rather an “About” page that is automatically generated based on a particular topic, in this case, “baby”. Such “About” pages have a description of the term along with a collection of images and other material related to the term. The “baby” page shows automatically compiled images of babies published on Facebook by you and your friends. But here’s the kicker. The page is personalized just for you. You get to see images of your friend’s children and perhaps your own. Non-friends who access the same page will see an entirely different collection of photographs. Thus, nobody is stealing and publicly displaying your children’s images or those of your friends. Only those who already have permission to see your images – i.e your Facebook friends – will be able to view the baby photos.
Moreover, Facebook’s search function generates “About” pages for a variety of topics, not just babies. For example, if you search for “Dogs”, you can access an “About” page about dogs that includes images of dogs belonging to your friends along with a lot of other material on the topic. Again, the page is personalized just to you and will show results that pertain only to you and your friends. Other Facebook users that are not on your friends list will see a different set of images:
Searching on many other topics, such as “cats”, “cars”, “bread” and “beer” will generate their own personalized “About” pages. All of the pages include the following explanation from Facebook:
This Page is automatically generated based on what Facebook users are interested in and not affiliated with or endorsed by anyone associated with the topic.
Thus, there is nothing sinister about this functionality and the fear and furore that these misleading warnings have generated is unnecessary. Of course, although these warnings have no validity, it is certainly wise to ensure that you have Facebook configured to keep your personal information and photographs private.