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Walls from Northgate

Protect yourself and your company with reverse image search

Walls from Northgate

Protect yourself and your company with reverse image search

We’ve mentioned before about how this is an era in which many people will believe and share anything they see on the internet as long as there’s an eye-catching picture with a resonant message accompanying it, but it’s also comforting to see nowadays that more and more frequently social media users are not getting away with sharing or retweeting drivel without having their knuckles rapped by their peers.

At the heart of this backlash against blind belief in reactionary memes is an increased awareness of the concept of “reverse image search”. Usinkg services like TinEye, it’s possible to feed an image into a search engine and piece together its origins. If Chrome is your browser of choice, you can even just right click an image and ‘Search Google for this image’. Armed with this knowledge, it’s possible to do a bit of research on images you see online, rather than simply believe something often put together as either a lazy form of marketing, or a cynical attempt to promote an agenda.

A good example of this was in September, when news of the refugee crisis was particularly prevalent and a certain picture was circulated suggesting that there was an ISIS representation infiltrating the refugees and battling with German police. Savvy web users smelt a rat though, and those who performed a reverse search on the image could easily see that the picture has been doing the rounds for at least a year. Eventually, a number of sources exposed the image as being from a completely unconnected incident from 2012. Someone somewhere had deliberately cobbled that piece of misinformation together.

What this suggests is that internet users are becoming healthily sceptical of what they read and see on the web, and that it’s hopefully going to become harder to reel people in with any old picture and a vivid imagination. This is something that businesses using images on their blogs, websites and social media channels need to be acutely aware of.

Public image

The internet offers instant access to billions of images, and we’ve seen many businesses simply take a copy and believe they’re free from Google. Yet while you’re invited to look at them using Google, it doesn’t mean they’re yours. Many images are owned by other people or businesses who don’t take kindly to them being used elsewhere without their say-so. Some parties might even see your use of their copyrighted image as a transaction and hit you with a bill. After all, we’ve seen that it’s not that difficult to find out where else an image is being used.

Of course, the most surefire way to own copyright-free images is to take them yourself, and who doesn’t fancy themselves as a photographer? Earlier this year, I combined a day out in Chester with an opportunity to snap some of the Roman city’s sightseeing highlights. As a result, Engage Web now has a bank of Chester photos that it indisputably owns, and it’s surprising how often these images have since come in useful for our local clients’ content.


If this isn’t possible, sites like FreeImages.com are a great resource for freely available images, although you should still check the individual copyright info on each one as some do list restrictions on usage or notifying the author. As you use them, you could even save the images (as well as their URL and author details) to your company’s drives so that you can go back and use them again and again.

Picture perfection?

As search engines become more and more intuitive, it’s even possible that we may soon be able to feed images we take ourselves into search engines and have them tell us what they are.

This is an idea that particularly seems to interest Microsoft, whose UK Search Advertising Lead, James Murray, talked at last year’s SAScon BETA event in Manchester about the possibility of taking a picture of a city and being told where you are via image recognition. It’s kind of a shame for lovers of pub quizzes that Google has ruined the general knowledge round, Shazam has killed the music round and, if Bing has its way, even the picture round might succumb to the smartphone. Time to introduce exam-conditioned quizzes, I say!

Whatever the future holds for search, we love images at Engage Web, and so do social media sites, but remember that they tell a thousand words – what are they saying about your business?

John Murray
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