Last post I was singing the praises of Panoramio for location-based photo sharing. I’ve uploaded a bunch of photos, and had 250 approved for Google Earth. I was quite flattered. The selected photos included some of my best shots, and covered the entire US, from Florida to Maine, to Washington State.
…and as of this evening I’ve deleted every single one of them.
I found that when I uploaded my original sized images to Panoramio there was no way to resize the images or prevent someone from downloading the originals. This is a problem. I’ve had folks steal my photographs before (stories here and here.) Flickr lets you restrict what is available for download, and to whom. There are no such controls in Panoramio, so my photos were right out there for the taking, including all of the EXIF data which I would normally use to prove that the photo is mine.
The alternative is to post a reduced size image without EXIF, or with some watermark. However, that’s yet another step in my workflow. I might be willing to work with this for the occasional photo, but it’s not something I want to do on a regular basis.
This wasn’t what really ticked me off about Panoramio, though. I couldn’t find anyone to answer questions about the service. Their forums are an abusive joke. For example, I was looking for information about batch uploading to Panoramio (they only let you upload 10 at a time). Someone else had also inquired in the forums, and the responses were something like, “Why would you ever want to do that?” That seemed to be the consistent reply for anything that might be slightly out of the norm for Panoramio, but is a common feature on Flickr and other photo sharing sites.
It got worse when I was looking for ways to restrict downloads. This post by someone with the same question provoked absolutely unwarranted verbal attacks from the community…
I was very disappointed to figure out that anyone can download a full-sized original of any photo I upload to Panoramio. Your service should do what Flickr does and restrict the download to the “preview” version of the photo if said photo is marked “All Rights Reserved.”
Maybe it’s time for you to be realistic. If the full size version is on-screen, it’s downloaded already.
The only way to protect your images on the internet – the only way – is to not upload them. It doesn’t matter what site you use, your images can be stolen.
It got worse, with others berating the quality of the inquirer’s photographs, others ridiculing him for having uploaded originals in the first place, etc., etc. Not once did anyone offer a reasonable answer.
For the record, there’s a very good reason to upload originals – to provide off-site back-up of valuable images. I do it on Flickr with my favorite photos so that if anything happens to my computer I at least have some of them saved.
Then it came time to ask about bulk delete. Here’s another exchange that was posted in the Suggestions forum…
I’m suggesting this because I’m thinking of updating my Gallery. It’s too much of a hassle deleting them one at a time. I’m sure you’ll make a lot of people happy including yours truly if you’ll provide that option, thank you very much.
Why would you need to mass delete photos
Perhaps this would be used more widely by members that do not take time to sort through their photos before hand.
A bunch of people uploading garbage to Panoramio just to see if its what they really wanted to upload?
The last thing anyone wants is a wonderful site like this to be slowed to a halt by unthoughtful and abusive users.
Sounds like a huge waist of bandwidth to me.
Wow! Speaking of “unthoughtful and abusive users”, this one offered no constructive suggestions.
So, this evening, one by one, I deleted every photo I had in Panoramio. I couldn’t just kill the account because it’s linked to my Google account, and I’ve got too much tied up there to delete that one. There was simply no other way to do it short of nuking my entire Google life. It was a pain.
Normally, I love Google products, and I still love browsing the photo layers in Google Earth. However, I’m not going to be a contributor if they put up so many barriers to a smooth user experience. Flickr has it’s own problems, but at least it has added features that actually help contribute to and use the site.
Speaking of Flickr, I had lamented the demise of Metal Toad’s KML layer that allows you to browse all geotagged Flickr photographs in Google Earth. Fortunately, someone has created another service that does something similar. It’s not quite as fast and smooth as Metal Toad’s service, but it will do nicely for now.
5 thoughts on “Rethinking Panoramio”
Downloading an image from any photo sharing site is an easy and doable task. Despite we are working in Panoramio to add some more level of protection (stay tunned for that) we understand your concern.
It is true that there are users that downscale their images for this reason and this results in a worst experience for the users that enjoy viewing those nice photos in Google Earth. It is for this reason that we are working to improve this bit of Panoramio.
On the other side, we can delete your account and all your photos in bulk if you send us an email at email@example.com This is explained in the Help Center but I am pointing it out here in case you missed it. This will not affect your Google Account as the deletion of Panoramio account will only delete this service.
Gerard – I do appreciate your feedback. I know that there are ways around security, but I would hope there would be SOME consideration for protecting the images from theft. I sincerely wish you luck as you are working on these features, and will be following to see how these go.
As for the account deletion, I haven’t given up on Panoramio entirely. I may decide to contribute some lower-resolution images in the future. I don’t really see how this can diminish the end user experience if the main purpose is to share photos on a map, in which case bandwidth is a concern, especially with Google Earth. Regardless, a bulk edit/delete feature would be nice.
Thanks Tom, we will take your thoughts in consideration.
Use Smug Mug instead. It is way better for controlling, organizing, and even making money with your photos. Panoramio wants your best photos to make money off you! That is why they make it so hard to delete your photos. NO batch delete! Think about it.
Plus SmugMug’s feed controls are way better. And so is their help.
I need to do the same thing, which is delete ALL my photos off Panoramio. I will be using Apple’s FREE ICloud when it comes out and maybe put a few on Smug Mug.
I am not a professional photographer, but I understand the desire not to have people use your works without permission and attribution. Unfortunately, the nature of digital photos means they can easily be copied and manipulated. And although sites like Flickr may put some barriers in place to prevent the most casual copying, this is no guarantee that the original image will never be copied, especially if you have provided the original to the site where it can be accessed by an insider at the very least.
IMHO the only way to prevent copying is to only place online a lower resolution / quality version which has been visibly watermarked and only provide full resolution versions which have been invisibly watermarked.
I also have to question using Flickr as an offsite backup. While it may work as such, that is not Flickr’s core business. And thus I wouldn’t assume that Flickr would preserve and protect your originals the way you may wish.