Many people are not comfortable with photos of them being taken or shared in certain ways. While in mainstream society, these concerns are usually about “ugly” or naked pictures that might be embarassing in front of friends or drunk pictures that might threaten future job opportunities when shared publicly, in activist contexts, there is the additional danger of political repression, and this goes way beyond publicly sharing something online. Instead, it applies to anything that goes through commercial providers, for example an e-mail sent from a Gmail account.
File storage is cheap enough to assume that any data that travels through commercial providers on the internet will be stored and never deleted again. Face recognition software is getting better and better, and it is safe to assume that big companies like Facebook and Google are already or will soon be able to identify any person on any photo that is shared with them, and the more pictures of a person they have, the easier it gets to identify them. Those companies work together closely with governments and secret services, but they usually also have a political agenda on their own.
This does not only enable governments and companies to identify you (on border crossings, on surveillance cameras or in random police checks) at any point in the future using the data we create today, but it also enables them to get information about your social networks (looking at who is on photos together with you), and, ultimately, using data that you or your friends posted on social networks or wrote in e-mails, about your interests, activities and political views, even if you are not using Facebook or Gmail but the people who are on a lot of photos together with you do.
Where this can lead we can already see today: The Chinese government is working on creating the Social Credit System, a big social network where people get scored depending on how pro-government the things that they share with their friends are, and also based on the score of the people they are friends with. A better score will give you a higher chance of getting a loan or getting the permission to travel abroad, but we can all imagine what other measures a system like this could be used for. Also in Europe and North America, big companies are already using similar internal social networks where employees are scored based on their activities (for example the Social Dashboard in IBM Connections).
The scary thing is that the data that we create today will be there forever, and it will be available to any fascist government that might come into power at any point of our lifetime.
Nonetheless, it is nice and important to have photos of our trip, to document it on the blog and to have memories.
We have discussed and experimented with different concepts in the past and have come up with a concept that seems the best way to incorporate everyone’s needs. On the tour, we will carry a list that every participant should sign in to express which types of photo taking or sharing they are okay with. There are different levels from taking photos of you at all to sharing them publicly on Facebook, and everyone who is planning to take photos should make themselves familiar with what other people have agreed to. To discourage sharing the photos with each other using commercial media, we have our own photo-sharing website that is encrypted and password-protected, so the uploaded photos will not be available to governments and companies.