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Is it Possible to Deter an Unwanted Photograph?

3rd November, 2018 | Cyberprivacy | Entropic

Photo by Christina Ambalavanar on Unsplash

When it comes to having your photo taken by others, for many of us there is a right time and a wrong time.

Some of the reasons why we may not be favorable to having our photo taken at any given time, include our perception of how well presented we are, whether or not we have the energy or mood to present a nice smiling image for the camera, and perhaps other details, such as our current location, since this tends to reveal regular lifestyle habits which we might prefer to keep private.

Celebrities and public figures, many of whom have a love/hate relationship with the press and paparazzi, can also have a pronounced sensitivity to having their photo taken at the wrong time.

The Explosion of Available Cameras

The prevalence of cameras beyond the traditional dedicated-purpose camera has exploded over the past 15 years - most notably with the introduction of smartphones and tablets. Other examples are security & monitoring cameras, cameras attached to vehicles that perform street mapping, autonomous driving, and information collection, and cameras such as Facebook Portal that can now follow us around as we move within our own home. In addition, the availability of methods to distribute and share photos has increased massively. We have been forced to accept the reality that our photo could be taken at any time or place and distributed to any given number of people instantaneously, without having much say about it.

Depending on their privacy policy, the act of simply distributing a photo to others using platforms such as social media, e-mail, and instant messages, can grant these companies carte blanche over how they collect and use your photos. Methods such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are being applied to collected photographs, and linked back to an ever-amassing profile about you and your lifestyle.

With this explosion in photographic devices and efficient distribution technologies, there has been little or no corresponding evolution of technologies and laws to empower us to defend ourselves from the capture and distribution of our photographs. At the end of the day, we still depend heavily on the courtesy of the photographer to be sensitive to our privacy.

A Photographers Assumptions

Photo by Michael Mroczek on Unsplash

Assuming that a photographer chooses not to respect the wishes of an individual who does not want to be photographed, what might possibly deter them from taking a photo?

Let's delve a bit deeper into the comfort zone of the photographer - at the time they are taking a photo of someone else. Selfies and other intentional inclusions aside, the photographer is comfortable knowing that their own camera is not aimed at them while they take photographs of others. They can be secure in the knowledge that their photo and personal details will not be included in their photograph of other people, unless of course they want it.

Should the photographer choose to re-distribute, post, or sell their photo to other select individuals or masses of people, theres not much in the photograph that says anything about them. Aside from some basic and largely optional pieces of native information supported by the standard image formats, it's pretty difficult to reverse engineer a photograph to attribute the original photographer.

In the field of cybersecurity, law enforcement, intelligence groups, and the organizations that support and work with with them, deal with an ongoing problem of identifying and prosecuting cybercriminals and nation states who instigate attacks, such as hacking, targeted attacks, and advanced persistent threats. This problem is known as attribution - linking a cyberattack back to the entity who originally instigated it.

What if we were to apply the concept of attribution to photography, in a way that helps people defend their privacy?

Demotivating the Photographer

The ability to add personal information about a photographer into their own photograph, as they are taking it, helps to turn the tables on how brazenly they might consider taking a photograph of someone, and distributing or selling it to others. The photographer is now forced to consider that their own personal information will also be included in their photograph, following it wherever it may go.

In the coming days, we'll be releasing photographic tagging technologies that can help individuals defend their privacy against unwanted photographs. These technologies can also be used to tag photographs to help you remember more details about an event where the photograph was taken, by simply analyzing the photograph with an App.


We believe that these upcoming technologies are a first step to leveling the playing field that has long been dominated by an influx of photographic and communications technologies, without a corresponding evolution of laws and technology defenses.

Companies such as DocuSign, who have for many years provided a de facto way to conveniently sign documents online, are now integrating their signature systems with the Ethereum blockchain for neutral record keeping and improved privacy. This is discussed more in this article by Elizabeth Gail, originally posted on

If you have any feedback, questions, or suggestions, please let us know.

Photo by Michael Mroczek on Unsplash
Photo by Christina Ambalavanar on Unsplash