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Most Facebook Users Flag Photos Because They're Unflattering

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As many members of social networks divulge any and all information about their daily lives, their more private friends routinely get caught in the mix.

Your brother's tweets may go into too much detail about after-work drinks, your cousin may have posted keg stand photo from your 21st birthday on Google+ (GOOG), or a work colleague may have an "unorthodox assessment" of your tenure over on LinkedIn (LNKD).

But with its 800 million users and over 250 million photos posted per day, Facebook is, by far, the Wild West of social networks. Embarrassing photos are posted, users are tagged, status updates mention folks by name. With only one friend and an iPhone (AAPL), Facebook users risk having their entire lives publicized in the most unflattering manner possible.

And most don't have a photo-blocking beer cooler to help.

So when pleading with a user to take down an unflattering photo is of no use -- or just as embarrassing as the photo itself -- many Facebook users will "Flag" the photo. In fact, according to Facebook engineering director Arturo Bejar, most flagged photos aren't offensive at all. The flaggers just don't think they look good in them.

The "Flag" option was originally intended to alert Facebook staffers to any material that contained spam, nudity, graphic violence, hate speech, drug use, etc. But by and large, the marked photos didn't fall under any of that criteria. The objections became so overwhelming that Facebook was forced to add an option to the "Flag photo" window -- namely, "I don't like this photo of me."

However, it's not always about bruised vanity. In an NPR interview, Bejar referred to one woman who didn't want to be seen at a political event by her employer and a mother who didn't want to have a photo of her two-year-old son online -- both understandable objections compared with "I don't like how my hair looks in this shot."

But while Facebook does have a policy which enables parents to take down photos of any child under 13 years of age, Bejar suggested that both users should take the matters up with the original posters.

Which explains why many people refuse to join Facebook: The very reason that made it flourish as a social network is also too great of a risk to one's privacy.

(See also: How to Avoid Incriminating Facebook Photos by Drinking More! and Apple Threatens to Sue Over Another Steve Jobs Doll)

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