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I am a UK-based photographer looking for a pro-quality online printing service. I have looked into dscolourlabs, proam imaging, and metro imaging, all of which appear to be quite popular and have been recommended to me at one time or another. However, none of these services provides a encrypted connection, which makes me nervous about the safety of my personal data and images. Should I be worried?

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    This is really a question about internet/data security, not photography. – user29608 Mar 7 '17 at 17:04
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's primarily about Internet security, not photography. – Philip Kendall Mar 7 '17 at 17:28
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    I'd say keep it here. While aspects are more on topic for security.se, the relation to a photographic work flow is important, and not really on topic there. However in answering this sort of question the first thing to consider is what's the threat. Are you concerned about your image files being taken and used by someone else (perhaps sold denying you the royalties), your payment details (off topic here) or the content of your images being leaked (commercially or personally sensitive pictures; information attached to them)? – Chris H Mar 7 '17 at 17:54
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    There's also the possibility that the "landing" pages aren't encrypted but that the connections used to actually upload content are encrypted. Many e-commerce sites allow you to browse their products and the descriptions on unencrypted pages, but when you click on the "add to cart" button that connection is encrypted, as are the pages in the checkout procedure. – Michael C Mar 7 '17 at 23:12
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    The ordering bit should be encrypted because of payment-processing rules. When it comes to image security unless using a rival's internet connection I'd be more worried about someone at the printing firm with a dodgy sideline in selling other people's work than interception in transit - if I was worried about it at all – Chris H Mar 8 '17 at 6:49
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However, none of these services provides a encrypted connection, which makes me nervous about the safety of my personal data and images. Should I be worried ?

The connection is of little practical importance, IMO. The odds that someone is stealing your images by intercepting your communications is pretty low, given there are so many easier ways to steal images. You and your images would need to be of spectacular importance to warrant the effort required to tap into your connections.

What's probably of more concern (to you) is the potential security of the servers that are holding the images while they are being queued for printing. Again, unless your images are of considerable value and you have reason to worry about their security, it seems unlikely that you can do much about it short of actually printing them yourself (and as a pro that's an option to give consideration). Printing yourself would effectively bypass all your concerns about internet security.

But keep this in perspective and if your images are valuable or potentially valuable you probably would be better to register them for copyright (i.e. formally). This would at least give you some hope of financial recovery if your images were stolen and used by someone else without your consent.

  • Thanks, that's quite helpful. Printing them would indeed be ideal but unfortunately it's not an option at the moment. Copyright registration is definitely on the cards. – Steph Mar 7 '17 at 23:01
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However, none of these services provides a encrypted connection, which makes me nervous about the safety of my personal data and images.

At least a couple of those services appear to support https connections, which uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to encrypt the interactions between your machine and theirs. Pointing my browser at https://dscolourlabs.co.uk or https://www.proamimaging.com, I get a padlock icon indicating a secure connection.

Should I be worried?

I'd certainly be concerned about transmitting credit card information across the Internet without encryption. And while it seems unlikely that someone would monitor traffic from your computer hoping that you might eventually send some really great photographs to someone, it doesn't seem unlikely at all that someone might monitor traffic coming into a photo printing service for the same reason.

  • It also seems unlikely that said photo services wouldn't invest in measures detecting and preventing their incoming traffic from being monitored for obvious reason of self-preservation. All it would take is one high profile case of an image being sent to them getting into the wild and their business is history. – Michael C Mar 7 '17 at 23:05
  • @MichaelClark I agree, and I'd be surprised if any professional outfit would intentionally fail to use secure connections. At the same time, it's entirely possible that a web server might be misconfigured or a certificate might be allowed to expire -- I wouldn't recommend assuming that the sites you deal with are secure just because they ought to be. – Caleb Mar 8 '17 at 0:22
  • There's a lot of ground between "...assuming sites... are secure..." on one side of the coin and "...doesn't seem unlikely at all..." on the other which makes it sound like there almost certainly is someone wiretapping every photo printer in order to skim images. – Michael C Mar 8 '17 at 0:32
  • @MichaelClark I don't think it is unlikely that someone would try to intercept traffic to a photo printing service, and whether I'm right or wrong about that doesn't really matter. From a security point of view, you should always assume that anyone can see unencrypted traffic. – Caleb Mar 8 '17 at 0:57
  • I think the last sentence of the answer would be much improved by adding the word try, as you did in your last comment. "... it doesn't seem unlikely at all that someone might monitor traffic..." reads a lot differently than "... it doesn't seem unlikely at all that someone might try to monitor traffic..." – Michael C Mar 8 '17 at 1:00

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