Social media platform Facebook is piloting new tools that give users in India more control over who can download and share their profile pictures. The tools have been developed in partnership with Centre for Social Research, Learning Links Foundation, Breakthrough and Youth Ki Awaaz. Users will be able to access the guard and design on Web, Android, MTouch, MBasic, and FBLite.

“The profile picture guard prevents misuse by disabling ways of copying that are in our control on Facebook. Though we were able to disable screenshots on the Android app, we understand there are other ways people can gain access for misuse, such as camera-to-screen and desktop screenshots. The profile picture design is intended to help deter people from using these additional ways to gain access for misuse,” Facebook spokesperson told MediaNama in an emailed response.

How it works

Users in India will see a step by step guide to add a profile picture guard on Facebook. Adding the protection guard is optional. If a user opts for the guard the following actions takes place.

  • Other Facebook users will no longer be able to download, share or send the profile picture in a message on Facebook
  • People who aren’t friends on Facebook won’t be able to tag anyone, including themselves, in the profile picture.
  • Where possible, Facebook will prevent others from taking a screenshot of the profile picture on Facebook, which is currently available only on Android devices.
  • A blue border and shield will appear around the profile picture as a visual cue of protection.
  • Users can also add an extra design layer to their profile picture. Facebook has partnered with Jessica Singh, an illustrator and added Indian textile designs such as bandhani and kantha.

On Facebook there already is an option to make photos albums not downloadable for certain audiences, but in that case on the web one can simply right-click and save the image. This essentially defeats the purpose of the tool or protection.

Reason for the new tools

Facebook claims that in their research with people and safety organizations in India, they heard that some women choose not to share profile pictures that include their faces anywhere on the Internet, because they’re concerned about what may happen to their photos. It also claims that users in India want more control over their profile pictures. In terms of adding designs to the profile picture, the company says that through its preliminary tests it understood that an added layer on the profile picture makes other people 75% less likely to copy the pictures.

Recent activities by Facebook

Facebook has been constantly testing and rolling out new features on all its apps.

– Cross App notification: Last month, Facebook started testing a feature that will show notifications from Facebook, Messenger as well as Instagram in the Facebook window itself. It allows users to switch between these apps instantly and keeps them informed about the activities on their profiles in each of the apps.

-In May, Facebook had also added more features similar to Snapchat on Instagram and the social networking site itself.  On Instagram, users have an option of choosing from eight different augmented reality face filters ranging from koala bear ears to math equations whirling over the head. One can use these filters by clicking on the camera option in Instagram, after which a face icon with the options appear. The photo sharing app also allows users to share videos that play on reverse mode and add hashtag stickers to the pictures.

In March this year, it also started ‘Facebook stories’ and Instagram Slideshows, where users can use the Facebook camera to take pictures and videos. Just like Snapchat, they appear on the screen just for 24 hours and then self-destruct.

-The company is also working on weeding out fake news and low-quality content from users’ news feeds, clearly marking out content that is low-quality or misleading, and reducing their ranking on the news feed.