Facebook profile picture controls

Screengrabs via Facebook

Facebook introduces protections to prevent people from downloading your profile picture

Facebook wants you to be comfortable sharing your face in your profile photo.


Christina Bonnington


Published Jun 22, 2017   Updated May 23, 2021, 2:10 am CDT

Posting a photo online is literally putting yourself out there. With one photo, you can become a meme, have your online identity stolen, or become a part of someone’s creepy spank bank. Facebook discovered that women in India are particularly concerned with what could happen to their profile photos, or what could happen to them after posting photos of themselves. These women are careful not to share any photos that include their face online.

To help assuage their concerns, Facebook is introducing new controls for profile pictures. Starting in India, but rolling out to other countries in the near future, other people will no longer be able to download your profile photo or send it as a message on Facebook. Facebook is also limiting who can tag themselves (or others) in your profile photo—only your friends will be able to do that. And then where possible, Facebook will prevent users from taking screengrabs of your photo, although currently, that capability is limited to Android devices.

And to remind you that your profile photo is protected, your image will be ringed by a blue border and a shield icon. You can also opt to overlay your photo with a design. With such an overlay in place, the company found people were 75 percent less likely to copy that image. (The overlay also makes it more obvious that a photo is stolen or screengrabbed.)


In India, a number of women have experienced rape threats and seen their photos misused online. (For example, someone digitally altering their face onto a pornographic image.) And, unfortunately, it doesn’t take much.

A woman may be shamed by a picture of herself simply with her hair uncovered, or in skimpy clothes,” University of Central Lancashire senior lecturer Amy Binns told the Washington Post. And as we know, women of any culture are more vulnerable to public online shaming than other groups.

Facebook’s additional profile photo controls are certainly well-meaning. Hopefully it will help those who want to share their photos online feel more comfortable about it. On the other hand though, what’s so wrong about using a sunset or a photo of your pet as your profile image? If you don’t want to share an image of yourself online, you shouldn’t feel pressured to. These profile photo changes may make it a little more difficult for an ex-boyfriend or stalker to steal and edit your photos, but it’s in no way a guarantee that your photos will be safe.

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*First Published: Jun 22, 2017, 1:50 pm CDT