Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Instagram: Instant Caution for Nudists? (with pic)

Before we start today’s blog post, Bare Platypus has a quick question for ya.  Somewhere within your parents’ family photo albums is there a picture of you naked as a tyke splashing in the tub or bare on a bearskin rug?  Hold that answer.

Now let’s talk about Instagram.  Bare Platypus must be slow on the technology beat because we had not heard of this San Francisco-based company until today.  When Facebook announced that it is paying One Billion Dollars in stock and cash to acquire this small collective of about a dozen employees who offer a unique internet / android app.  Instagram lets people take pictures they have snapped with camera phones and edit them before storing them in Instagram’s “cloud vault” of photography.  Instagram’s piece de resistance is an app that turns camera phone pics into something resembling a 1970’s era Polaroid snapshot .

Let’s return to that picture of you in the tub or on the rug.  The only people who know about that photo are likely to be you, your parents, and the prom date you had who your folks took it upon themselves to show.  It probably remains in the plastic sleeve of some photo album stored on some shelf.  But what if the whole world could see your bare tush? 

That, of course, is precisely what happens with “cloud computing” sites that store photos.  Instagram is the latest in a long line that includes FLICKR, Photobucket, and the albums users create on Facebook.

Bare Platypus doesn’t see anything inherently wrong with this, but there IS a hidden issue for nudists.  What happens when pictures that we take, edit, and store on such sites--- believing them to be perfectly natural---are tried in the court of public opinion under standards that are constantly changing?

Back to you and your picture in the family album.  At the peak of concerns about “child pornography” that image your folks took of you (heaven forbid they took more than one) could have landed them in jail… or at least a trip to the police station to answer some questions.  Indeed, that’s what started to happen when parents took film in for photo developing at the height of the hysteria.  Lifetime Networks even made a television movie about one mom who had her children taken away.

Platypi don’t subscribe to Lifetime so we didn’t see it. But we HAVE fielded calls from concerned parents (some nudists, some not) who learned the hard way that a picture or two they thought was cute and innocent didn’t look that way in the eyes of a different beholder.  When the “beholder” was a clerk at the 1 hour photo store it was an occasional issue.  Now thousands, nay tens of thousands, may be the beholder.  Any one of them could be offended, concerned, report it, or request that your photo be deleted. (We have also assisted one family with some extreme difficulty they encountered over photos posted on Flickr for which they were ultimately cleared of any charges.  But not before being burdened with a job loss and considerable legal expense.  Their experience is just one of the reasons you will not find any nudity on Bare Platypus except for the illustrations of our Platypi.)

Don’t think that will happen?  Maybe not.  But consider this:  Some time ago the very same Facebook that just bought Instagram for $1 billion made the controversial decision to block, remove, even terminate the accounts of some breastfeeding mothers who wanted to preserve and celebrate a time in their infants’ lives.

4/23/12 Update:  As so happens, Instagram does, in fact, promptly delete photos and entire accounts if fellow users flag an account for posts with nudity.  Read Instagram Removed My Account .  No word on whether they also report users to authorities.