This is one issue which I have came by in the world of Security, which I can not seamlessly wrap my head around. How is it a threat to one's security by showing them a picture of themselves to people online?

On a lot of games which I play, from League of Legends to Habbo Hotel, if people find an actual picture of someone who is has an ego out of the ass, they see it as a security threat to themselves and their well being.

I do understand a part of it, but that does with psychology and philosophy, but where does this play into security of using the internet?

Maybe I am misunderstanding security overall here? Or a picture of myself over the internet is going to cause me some issues down the road with my security of my online profiles, such as here on StackExchange?

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    I have edited the question so hopefully it is a bit more suitable here. The removed content is entirely irrelevant to the question, and in fact suggests you may have been conducting activities that may be illegal...
    – Rory Alsop
    Apr 28, 2014 at 1:36

3 Answers 3


Not sure how that long story relates to uploading a picture online.

The big dangers of your picture being online, is

  1. the image has metadata that you don't want to leak (e.g., your phone geotags your location, so if some crazy person sees it they could figure out where you live), or
  2. the image helps people from real life identify you and helps average users tie your semi-anonymous online behavior to yourself (could be problematic), or
  3. the image posted online helps connect you to illegal/unethical activity (e.g., bank robber posts selfies with illegal machine gun used in recent robberies, or
  4. the same image is used by you in multiple locations, easily found by using an image search tool like tineye, which loses your privacy.

For example, I probably wouldn't be able to identify you by your tiny gravatar thumbnail. But if I examine the image URL: https://www.gravatar.com/avatar/6151310f6b2443a98ee2b0987ab01b7d?s=128&d=identicon&r=PG and change the size of the image to say 1024:


I could probably identify you.

  • I see what you are saying without a doubt. I know the goal of social networking is to "make friends, and express yourself", but it seems like they are doing the exact opposite. Also, I don't see how my picture is going to cause me any issues down the road at all, ever to come.
    – user42740
    Apr 27, 2014 at 23:21
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    Very good answer. I'd also add that pictures and timestamp may indirectly reveal sensitive information - for example, a holiday picture could help in estimating when and how long a town house might be uninhabited.
    – LSerni
    Apr 27, 2014 at 23:27
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    @Traven - I wasn't saying your picture will be trouble for you in particular, if you do not intend to keep your online persona private or separated from your offline personality. As the popularity of facebook, google+, and others has shown, many people don't feel the need to separate the two. Granted many people have had their online identities tied to their offline ones to major consequences (e.g., fired over online activity).
    – dr jimbob
    Apr 28, 2014 at 4:10

Rambam's Law says that all databases will be used for something other than their intended purpose. Maybe it's impossible to keep your photo offline; your driver's license photo has been assimilated into a new, massive FBI photo-recognition database, and authorized users of public surveillance cameras in cities and airports will be able to quickly identify you as you pass by the cameras.

Many private sector actors (such as Facebook) are also collecting large numbers of photos for their databases.

For what nefarious purposes can your photo be used? The answers range from the relatively benign (racial or age discrimination in employment) to the scary and oppressive. It's much easier for a process server to walk up to you and hand you a lawsuit if he or she has your photo. It's not too farfetched to imagine automated sniper rifles that could recognize people and shoot them dead. And maybe photos will be used in ways that you or I can't imagine today.


There may be more a of a "privacy" threat than security threat, but there are some potential security issues from identifying where someone lives or what they look like. A cyber-bully may try to get your real name, phone number, etc and an image could assist in that.

Spear phishing and watering hole attacks are attacks which become more effective the more private data you know about someone. Perhaps the attacker knows you wear glasses or that your color your hair? Maybe they send an email with the subject "Class Action Lawsuit for hair dye manufacturer - GET PAID NOW!" or "Get a discount on prescription eye wear and earn an Obamacare refund".

In dr jimbob's answer to this question, he has already pointed out some methods of obtaining personal information.

A big threat could be correlation. Let's say the attacker cracks the password database on a forum the victim uses and now knows the password. The attacker may seek to see what other sites can be accessed using that identity and password. If the forum has a image used on other website, a google image search may help find those other sites to target.

Another twist on this could be in an attacker's footprint of a company: Find the sysadmin on LinkedIn then use the image to determine where she/he hangs out on the web and target attacks at that person and those sites.


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