You can’t play host to the personal information of millions of people across the globe without a host of intricate, thorough privacy settings. We’re talking about Facebook, and today, we’ll address the still-frequent rumor that you can view private profile pictures, regardless of an individual’s personal account security. If the safekeeping of our personal information is of interest to you, read on!
If there’s one thing that always seems to generate a little bit of irritation with every single update that hits Facebook, it’s the constantly shifting nature of the popular social media platform’s privacy settings. Though your own settings and preferences will largely remain intact when Facebook updates its interface and features, there are occasionally certain aspects of your settings that will change. Furthermore, new settings are added all of the time, often without users being made quite as aware of it as they probably should be.
For many, this has created the false impression that Facebook’s privacy settings are somehow lackluster. Thankfully, the millions of users that rely on Facebook for personal and professional communication on a daily basis can rest assured that this is not the case. Though the privacy settings in Facebook might be somewhat convoluted (and admittedly a bit more complicated than many would like) they are sound, and you can certainly rely on them.
This doesn’t mean that people aren’t constantly looking for ways around them, however. Like any interpersonal communications tool, it’s been constantly important that “block” and “friending” features are immensely important, and ever more so that these features allow you to control who can see how much of the wealth of information that can be stored on Facebook. Names, addresses, phone numbers, work history, pictures, and more are all readily available, and 100% dependent upon your privacy settings.
The digital era has made our online activity just as important as anything else, which means that it’s certainly a point of vulnerability that we need to be aware of. When a rumor starts circulating, then, that users can pluck your profile picture right off of Facebook regardless of privacy settings, it is, of course, going to be pretty alarming.
Here’s the thing: this is, for the most part, something that people can actually do. While your personal information is always going to be as safe as your privacy settings are arranged to make it, your profile picture is your identifying mark for anything that you do with your Facebook account. If you take a moment to consider how widespread Facebook integration has become all across the web, this will begin to make sense.
When was the last time that you were signing up for a new service, and had the option to sign up through Facebook? It’s pretty prevalent across popular services, and Facebook most certainly benefits from integrating both itself and your profile with third-party services. (Additionally, it can make your sign in process much easier with hundreds of different online services.)
Because of this, your current profile picture is not private. This, in and of itself, is not an especially dangerous thing. Since it’s an identifying mark that accompanies your name wherever you use Facebook to sign in, it truly is just a picture, and other users won’t be able to use it to gain any of your carefully-handled private information.
Still, that doesn’t exactly provide a wealth of reassurance. We’ll expand upon this issue and examine the methods that people are using to get access to profile pictures, even if they’re not “friended,” or perhaps more drastically, have been blocked.
Why Attain a Profile Picture?
Usually, the only reason that many individuals and services offer this (or even treat it as illicit behavior), is to purport that they’re able to gain access to actual private information on Facebook. You may rest assured that this is misleading, and certainly isn’t the case.
If Facebook possessed such a severe privacy flaw that put millions of peoples’ information at risk and was also able to be found within the first results of a simple Google search, the rest of social media would be on fire with the news. Because it isn’t, we can extend a certain amount of trust to the integrity of Facebook’s privacy settings. It’s understandable if you have difficulty doing so, especially if you’ve been a Facebook user for several years; not that much time has passed since Facebook was embroiled in the controversial changing of its “default” privacy issues, without making its users explicitly aware of the fact.
What’s the point of this supposed “private profile trick,” then? It actually is this simple: users have found a way to grab a stored profile image and display it at its native resolution and size, rather than the thumbnail that’s available on Facebook.
Viewing Profile Pictures
The actual process is very simple, and we can outline it pretty succinctly below. It’s a curious fact that Facebook’s recent updates have actually taken steps to make this more difficult for people to do; you can’t directly reference a profile picture that’s publically available on Facebook through a separate URL. It would not surprise me in the least if this very visible loophole is closed in the near future.
You can try this trick with your own profile, but you’ll need your Facebook User ID. Not your Facebook profile page, but the numerical ID number that’s specifically assigned to your Facebook information. If you’re worried that this number will allow others to access private information, don’t be; it’s simply a numerical representation of your Facebook profile and doesn’t bypass privacy settings.
- If you’re not sure what your Facebook ID is, resources such as findmyfbid.com can do it for you in a pinch.
- Once you have it in an easily referenced place, copy the following URL into a new browser tab: http://graph.facebook.com/USERID/picture?width=2000&height=2000.
- Next, replace “USERID” with your own numerical user ID.
- Hit “enter” and…voila! Instant profile picture.
Does this Affect My Privacy?
This is actually a more difficult question to answer than you might think, so I’ve chosen to break it down into two parts. Because “personal privacy” is actually a slightly different (and more subjective) topic than “privacy settings,” it’s important to distinguish which you’re speaking about whenever you approach this issue.
- This little trick has no effect on your privacy settings. This is to say, your Facebook settings are in place and working, whatever you’ve set them to. The fact remains that your current profile picture is not a private element, and there’s currently no way to make it private.
- The above trick can certainly affect your personal privacy in many ways. What I mean by this, is it’s quite possible (and understandable!) to be upset that absolutely anyone can fish your profile picture up off of Facebook, regardless of whether or not you want them to. If this upsets you for reasons of personal privacy, then read on!
What Can I Do About It?
The unfortunate thing about dissent and discontent on Facebook is that it’s a huge social media platform, and it’s easy to get caught up feeling like one tiny voice amidst the sea of millions. However, it’s important to realize that voicing displeasure about a certain Facebook feature is something that you shouldn’t be dissuaded from, especially if you feel that it’s violated your personal privacy.
It aids to this argument that many people still aren’t content with the current status of Facebook’s privacy features. Even a glance at Facebook’s “Help” section of the website will reveal many users’ unhappiness at finding out that this trick actually works.
What can you do about it, then? Add your voice to theirs! Any change will never happen without the necessary resistance to encourage it, and based on fixes made in the more recent updates to the Facebook platform, there’s a good chance that the company’s developers already have their eyes on this particular conundrum.
It should be stated, for final clarification, that Facebook’s privacy settings are working as intended. It’s easy to believe otherwise when anyone can get ahold of your current profile picture, but this isn’t happening in opposition to privacy policies; it’s happening because your profile picture does not fall under those privacy policies, in the same way, that your name and Facebook ID do not. Other people cannot use this trick (or any other) to gain access to your personal information.
If nothing else, let the popularity of this trick serve as a reminder to be careful about what you assign as your Facebook profile picture! Since this facet of your information, along with your name, is freely available to anyone else on Facebook (even if none of the rest of your profile is), it’s a good reason to make sure that you’re presenting yourself in the light that you want the rest of the world to see you in. The veil of anonymity frequently offered to many voices on the internet–for better or worse–is not available through Facebook.
The above guide will definitely show you how to view Facebook profile pictures, but we hope that the rest of it has helped to inform you that your current profile picture is not private. Feel free to chime in with your questions or commentary, below!