Do you know the risks of posting your organization’s photos on social media sites, or sharing them via Dropbox and Flickr?
The International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) has announced that most social media sites do not maintain image metadata.
The IPTC’s 2016 Social Media Sites Photo Metadata Test, which examined 15 social media sites, revealed that most of the sites tested stripped images of their metadata (some during display, others on download or save as).
Let’s take a closer look at how this news affects your brand.
If someone on your communications team, whether it’s a photographer (staff or freelance), visual asset manager or marketing staff member, has taken the time to add IPTC metadata to an image, you definitely don’t want that information to be removed. Keywords and other searchable fields help your team find images, whether they are searching in your own photo library or online. This allows your brand to track where an image has been used.
For example, Visit Greenland shares its images for free with its stakeholders. Adding detailed metadata allows the tourism board’s staff members to search the web for its images and confirm a photo was produced by Visit Greenland. They can track where images have been used, and ensure that stakeholders are following Visit Greenland’s usage rights policy.
IPTC tested the social media sites to see if they displayed the 4C columns: Caption, Creator, Copyright Notice and Creditline. Of all the sites tested, only one (Behance) got a high score. Then, IPTC tested what happened if you downloaded or right-clicked to “save as,” and tracked whether embedded metadata would be saved along with the image. Again, most sites failed to make the grade, and some scores have actually fallen since the last test in 2013.
If you’re sharing your brand’s images on social media, you run the risk of someone stealing those images. If image rights information is attached to the image, you can prove the image belongs to your brand. David Riecks, leader of the Photo Metadata Project, described another benefit of embedded metadata after the test results were released in 2013:
Storing this information inside the image can’t prevent others from misusing the information but it can help others know more about the image: who is pictured in a photo, what they are doing (and maybe why) as well as where and when it was taken. However, all of those benefits are lost if this metadata doesn’t “stick” to the image as it travels from one computer to another and onto the web.
If your organization is using Dropbox or Flickr for photo sharing among your own team or with outside stakeholders, this test shows that you run the risk of losing valuable information in the process. Flickr does not preserve any metadata – even Exif – when someone uses the “save as” function. Neither does Dropbox (a decline since the test in 2013).
Corporate visual asset management solutions like Libris have security features like the ability to block the “save as” function, and have strict download permissions that you can control. They preserve all metadata on download, so your images remain searchable and maintain important contextual information, from contextual information like caption and description to usage rights information like copyright and license agreement. Without this information, you run the risk of misusing the photo, which can have serious consequences ranging from off-brand messaging to a lawsuit.
Consumer sites are not an adequate workflow tool for organizations because they do not protect your images.
Brands are increasingly relying on imagery to communicate. Organizations must be stewards of their own visual assets, and make responsible decisions about the tools they use to share those assets. Awareness is key.
“There are many important reasons to embed and preserve metadata – to protect copyrights, ensure proper licensing, track image use, smooth workflow, and make them searchable on- or offline,” said Michael Steidl, Managing Director of IPTC in a press release. “If users provide captions, dates, a copyright notice and the creator within their images, that data shouldn’t be removed when sharing them on social media websites without their knowledge.”