Announced yesterday on an official blog post, Flickr launched a location specific service that assigns privacy settings based on the geographical location of each picture uploaded to the photo sharing service. Calling the new feature “Geofences”, Flickr users can bring up a map interface and search for a new location like an address. After choosing a location, the user can pick a preset diameter between 50 to 10,000 meters in addition to customizing a specific diameter up to 10,000 meters (approximately 6 miles). After giving the geofence a name, the user chooses a group that will be able to view the photos.
Any photo that’s taken in the geofence will automatically be assigned the privacy settings when uploaded to Flickr. In addition, all previous photos with geographical location data will be assigned the new privacy settings. For instance, photos taken at a home could potentially be restricted to only friends and family rather than for the public eye. Flickr also took steps for overlapping circles or circles that are completely enveloped by other circles. The privacy settings always defaults to the circle with the most stringent settings. For instance, a circle around a home that’s restricted to family can reside inside a larger circle that’s restricted to friends or contacts. All photos taken around the home will keep the tighter settings while photos taken around the neighborhood will be more open.
Users are currently limited to 10 geofences, but Flickr estimates that’s plenty based on the amount of groups that users use. Flickr added geotagging in August of 2006 and the company estimates that over 300 million photos have been tagged using the service. While users will likely welcome the new privacy settings, law enforcement agencies that use Flickr to identify suspects in unfortunate events like the London riots may find themselves searching longer hours as more photos go private with geofences.