X-pire! - A digital expiration date for images in social networks

Julian Backes, Michael Backes, Markus Dürmuth, Sebastian Gerling, Stefan Lorenz

The Internet and its current information culture of preserving all kinds of data cause severe problems with privacy. Most of today's Internet users, especially teenagers, publish various kinds of sensitive information, yet without recognizing that revealing this information might be detrimental to their future life and career. Unflattering images that can be openly accessed now and in the future, e.g., by potential employers, constitute a particularly important such privacy concern. We have developed a novel, fast, and scalable system called X-pire! that allows users to set an expiration date for images in social networks (e.g., Facebook and Flickr) and on static websites, without requiring any form of additional interaction with these web pages. Once the expiration date is reached, the images become unavailable. Moreover, the publishing user can dynamically prolong or shorten the expiration dates of his images later, and even enforce instantaneous expiration. Rendering the approach possible for social networks crucially required us to develop a novel technique for embedding encrypted information within JPEG files in a way that survives JPEG compression, even for highly optimized implementations of JPEG post-processing with their various idiosyncrasies as commonly used in such networks. We have implemented our system and conducted performance measurements to demonstrate its robustness and efficiency.

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