SUMMERSIDE – The RCMP is investigating how photos of a six-year-old girl from the Summerside area turned up on a website frequented by pedophiles.
Facebook’s privacy settings play an important role in protecting profile information and photographs posted on the social networking site, but police say many users don’t realize they have to change their settings.
Const. Shannon Hodder confirmed Thursday that the Major Crimes section was alerted to the matter due to a post on a Facebook site for P.E.I. parents.
Police say the photos of the girl were downloaded from a Facebook profile that didn’t have proper privacy settings in place, and were then uploaded to an online message board where pictures of young children are frequently posted.
Hodder said the incident appears to be isolated in terms of photos of children from P.E.I., and said the RCMP would issue a further news release Friday morning.
Const. Cheryl Duffy of the East Prince RCMP said it’s important for Facebook users to check all their privacy settings before posting photos or material they don’t want to make public.
“People create these Facebook accounts and they put all kinds of stuff up there, and photos,” said Duffy. “Unless they have their privacy settings on either ‘custom’ or for ‘friends only,’ anyone can search their Facebook and download their photos. That’s what happened in this situation.”
Although the post on the P.E.I. parents’ Facebook site says the privacy settings were in place on the account in question, Duffy said many people don’t realize that Facebook automatically sets most things to ‘public’ by default, leaving the onus on the user to change the privacy settings.
She suggested viewing YouTube videos that provide step-by-step instructions on setting Facebook privacy options, or using the ‘help’ function on the social networking site itself.
If you’re still unsure, Duffy suggests, have a friend or family member help with Facebook privacy settings. The settings can be accessed using the drop-down menu next to the ‘Home’ button at the top of the site.
While police are aware of the offending message board in this incident, Duffy added, those who download and post the pictures are often untraceable because they take measures to hide their identities online.