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New tech will keep your photos safe in (and from) the cloud

Evan Dashevsky | April 8, 2013
A modern connected life means balancing privacy with convenience.

A modern connected life means balancing privacy with convenience.

For example, many of us willingly hand all of our private personal photos over to third party cloud services in exchange for the convenience of easily accessing them across our polygadget, multi-platform digital lives. And then all our stuff is just kind of up "there," and we just hope the Googles, Facebooks, and Flickrs of the world (not to mention mischievous hackers) aren't doing anything creepy with it.

However, users may soon have a tool that will empower them to store images remotely, but still maintain control over who can access them.

A new tool from a USC research team dubbed P3 (Privacy-Preserving Photo Sharing) allows users to store their images in a cloud service like Facebook or Flickr, but removes small amount of crucial data and encrypts it. The parsed images are then an unusable and unrecognizable digital mush until the image owner chooses to share the small portion of missing encrypted data.

Even as the bulk of the image data is stored in a third party service, the image owner remains the ultimate gatekeeper.

A technology like P3 will keep ever-expansive entities like Facebook from claiming ownership of your images as per the whim of their legal team (according to FB's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, the company has "non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license" to all your posted content until you delete it). If a user were to utilize P3, only the unusable portion of the images would be owned by Facebook, and owners would maintain power over the full image.

The technology has already earned a provisional patent and the professors behind the technology plan to launch a company this summer bringing the tool to the public.


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