Digital picture paranoia

Hey y’all! I’m cavalier about my picture being on the internet, because I kind of have to be in order to build up a presence for my business. But LOTS of you are creeped out by the idea of some rando seeing pics of you online. (I totally get that.)

I crowd-sourced some info about how to make a digital image less reverse-searchable. This is neither comprehensive nor 100% expert backed, but my pals on Twitter dug up some interesting examples and information so I thought I’d share a little round-up of the best tips and tactics! A special thanks to my pal Stanlo, who did a bunch of testing and who seems to have discovered the best Google-flummoxing trick: horizontal flip.

The cynical take

Don’t even bother trying. You can’t fool the robots, you can only temporarily flummox them. Give in and accept our new overlords.

Unfortunately for most of y’all, I think Kaz is dead on here. It’s really, really hard to fool the increasingly smart technical ways people can reverse lookup your pics. It’s best to make your peace with it and only put out pics of you that you could stand having discovered, ya know?

But fear not… next we have the surprisingly effective..

Horizontal flip!

By jove, I think he’s done it!

Here are the images Stanlo had tweeted, for your easier perusal.

Original image search results:


You can see that the exact same image that he searched on is the very first result. Boo. 

Horizontally flipped image search results:


Damn! Not a single accurate hit! So that’s kinda promising, right? (Until, as Kaz states, they fix it.)

Strip the metadata

If you’re just worried about stripping out the embedded metadata of the photo file, use a weirdly named app. This tactic is smart for the paranoid and is simple enough to figure out. It doesn’t solve for facial recognition technology, but that’s not as robust as shows like Alias make it out to be. 🙂

Muck with exposure?

Some folks suggested altering the crop or making the image black and white. No dice.

But you CAN crank up the exposure and become the anime princess of your dreams! Yay!

More technical image tweaks

One person suggested breaking the image into tiles:

But even that fails, although more tiles + unpersonalized Google search might have produced less obvious results.

More complicated image futzing:

Or for some purposes you can rely on the webmaster to handle it via Google Developer Tools, but this isn’t a reliable option for big social media sites.

My image recommendations

All told, I think the best solution is to be smart about which images you use for which purposes. Looking at the results my friendly Twitter testers produced, it seems like current image search technology relies heavily on the image already existing somewhere. So, for example, if you wanted to post a picture to your online dating profile but not have it be easily look-up-able (shut up), you just wouldn’t use an image that you had already posted anywhere else.

…obligatory reminder that a great way to get a set of diverse, flattering images is to attend one of my Mug Shots events, haha.

Happy posting, whatever pics you use! [icon-heart]

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