X-Pire to Give Web Images an Expiry Date
Posted by pratyushkp
Won’t work without a browser add-on; we hope it never catches on
The young, stupid and social networking websites is a potent combination for disaster. It’s a common phenomenon for people to do something stupid on Facebook, like upload images they would regret later. The problem is compounded by the tendency of the Internet to store data for a long time; archived and easily accessible to searches. We had done a story on the most egregious example of the same with the persistence of deleted images on Facebook.
The solution to this peculiar issue may come in the form X-Pire, a utility that allows you to put expiration date on your photos. Developed by German researchers, X-Pire is a browser add-on that tags images with an encrypted key, which allows the users to set a shelf life for the images, following which, the images cease to be viewable. The X-Pire project commenced at Information Security and Cryptography department at Saarland University, Germany after rising security issues with Facebook photographs.
Explaining the need for the Image encryption system, development lead, Professor Michael Backes said, “More and more people are publishing private data to the internet and it’s clear that some things can go wrong if it stays there too long. Many people join social networks because of social pressure. They tend to post everything on the first day and make themselves naked on the internet.”
The professor believes that the ephemeral nature of social network fads doesn’t necessitate for the images and associated content to stay on forever on the internet. He elaborates, “Only a small fraction of people are active every day. The majority are passive users, they do not contribute apart from their initial phase and afterwards they do not seem to care or perhaps they just forget.”
However, it seems highly unlikely this project will taste success, since it restricts content to a monopolised control body, which is never a good sign for a medium as free as the Internet. The X-Pire system works with the help of a browser add-on, which although is free, but the service requires you to pay two Euros (Rs. 125 approx.) a month for you to continue tagging the images with an expiry date. Moreover, X-Pire encrypted images can only be viewed on browsers that support the add-on, and currently the add-on is only compatible with the Firefox browser.
The idea may sound noble, but putting your data under the ransom of a single corporation isn’t the brightest thing to do. Then there’s the issue of compatibility, recurring subscription price, and the fact that not everyone may be keen on installing an add-on just to view your images. A little bit of common sense and discretion when it comes to what you upload on the Internet goes a long way than relying on a third party encryption service. The service is promised to launch by the end of this month.