Facebook's Adding New Profile Image Tools to Protect Users from Identity Theft and Misuse

As more and more people use social media more often, and upload more of their personal information to their profiles, identity theft and misuse becomes a much larger concern. This issue is particularly prevalent in India – according to research by Experian, identity theft is the most prominent form of fraud in the nation.

But identity theft isn’t the only way to misuse online data.

As per Facebook:

“In our research with people and safety organizations in India, we’ve heard that some women choose not to share profile pictures that include their faces anywhere on the internet because they’re concerned about what may happen to their photos.”

To counter this, Facebook is piloting a new test in India which will enable users to place a ‘profile picture guard’ on their profile image, which will stop people from downloading or otherwise tampering with your profile header.

The process is fairly simple – Indian users will soon see a prompt which walks them through adding a profile picture guard, though they’ll also be able to add the guard by editing their profile image.

Facebook Adding New Profile Image Tools to Protect Users from Identity Theft and Misuse | Social Media TodayAs shown in the video and image above, once the guard is added, there’ll be a blue border around your image, with a shield icon at the bottom.

With the guard activated:

  • Other people will no longer be able to download, share or send your profile picture in a message on Facebook
  • People you’re not friends with on Facebook won’t be able to tag anyone, including themselves, in your profile picture
  • Where possible, Facebook will prevent others from taking a screenshot of your profile picture on Facebook (which is currently available only on Android devices)

In addition, Facebook’s also giving Indian users new tools to add designs to their profile images – you can see an example below, with a kind of wire mesh looking overlay added to the profile shot.

Facebook Adding New Profile Image Tools to Protect Users from Identity Theft and Misuse | Social Media TodayAccording to Facebook’s tests, when a user adds an extra design layer to their profile picture, other people are 75% less likely to copy that picture.

Facebook’s partnered with illustrator Jessica Singh to create the new designs for users to add to their profile image.

Similar to Facebook’s shift in their mission statement – from “Making the world more open and connected” to “Bring the world closer together” – as Facebook expands, it’s finding that there are more challenges to creating an increasingly collaborative, open world than just giving people the tools to do so. While most people use social platforms to maintain relationships and learn about new things, others can also use the same devices to spread negative messaging, to incite hatred and division and to target vulnerable groups.

It’s disheartening, in some ways, that Facebook needs to put such measures in place, but anything that can be done to protect people and provide more safety and security – both online and off – should be commended.

The new profile tools are being rolled out in India, with Facebook planning to expand them to more regions soon, dependent on initial results.

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