The photos on one of my Facebook accounts seem to have lost a significant amount of resolution after they had already been posted. This account has other issues, for example, my timeline review is turned off but I am still asked to review anytime someone tries to tag me in something. I used to think online photos can't change, but I read somewhere that it is possible if the host website decides to rewrite them. Is there anything I could do to prevent this from happening?

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    \$\begingroup\$ xkcd.com/1683 \$\endgroup\$
    – forest
    Jun 8, 2018 at 11:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Be aware that Facebook could basically swap overnight every face of every photo with Zuckerberg's face, as a bug or a feature. Also, xkcd.com/1150 xkcd.com/908 \$\endgroup\$
    – alecail
    Jun 8, 2018 at 11:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Besides intentional degrading of a photo's quality or size for display purposes (they very well may be keeping the original quality photo and simply not showing it that way on the site to reduce bandwidth usage), online storage is also not immune to bit rot or other unintentional degradation. Professional backup services should be taking measures against this and be keeping multiple copies, etc.. but just because they should doesn't mean they will, and Facebook is far from being a backup service. \$\endgroup\$
    – ttbek
    Jun 9, 2018 at 13:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of Do digital photos lose quality over time? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9, 2018 at 15:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Putting it on a purely storage service, e.g. Google Drive, is probably safer vs. long-term digital degradation than your hard drive. Though I'm not sure I'd recommend that given privacy issues and the fact that this would apply to everything on your hard drive so you might as well just replace hard drives every five years or so... \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9, 2018 at 15:40

3 Answers 3


one of my Facebook accounts seem to have lost a significant amount of resolution

Facebook (and other social media sites) compress photos while storing/displaying. Considering the amount of data that gets uploaded in these sites, its difficult to argue against it. This link talks about how you can minimize that to a small extent (but that article is old and not sure if those settings are still present). Brief googling brings up this guide from facebook.

I read somewhere that it is possible if the host website decides to rewrite them

That would depend on the usage agreement/terms and conditions that you agree to while signing up. As per Remco's answer users grant usage and modify right to Facebook.

If preserving the original quality (and metadata) is your requirement, you can look into dedicated photo storing websites like 500px, flickr and others. Google photos lets you choose the quality of uploaded images and offers unlimited storage on compressed images. However their compression algorithm IMHO is better than that of facebook and the loss of quality is negligible.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Facebook only allows images with resolution up to 2048x2048, whereas Google photo allows unlimited images up to 16MP, so even if the compression is worse, the quality will still be better \$\endgroup\$
    – phuclv
    Jun 9, 2018 at 15:16

Short answer: no. Especially not in the case of facebook, where you explicitely give them the right to use your images almost as they want. From their terms:

Specifically, when you share, post, or upload content that is covered by intellectual property rights (like photos or videos) on or in connection with our Products, you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, and worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings).

Note the modify and publicly display parts of that. As a side note: you also give them the right to transfer or sublicense your images...

And those terms do not prevent them modifying images marked as private.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Given those licensing terms I tend to only upload reduced resolution versions of my files anyway. I offer to send full-res copies to the people who were there. It's not like I'm shy of giving my photos away either -- I've got a few on wikimedia commons, for example. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris H
    Jun 8, 2018 at 14:25

The photos on one of my Facebook accounts seem to have lost a significant amount of resolution after they had already been posted.

This is not damage, this is facebook deciding to not store the original resolution but work with a reduced resolution. They also strip most metadata.


I used to think online photos can't change,

You upload a photo to someone else computer. What train of thought can you logically come up with that makes it impossible for the owners of said computer to not be ABLE to change this photo?

Is there anything I could do to prevent this from happening?

Do not upload your photos to a place you do not control.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is true in the case of Facebook, but other sites, like Smugmug, do present themselves as photo storage services. One would expect that such sites wouldn't modify the images that you store with them (unless you use their tools to edit, etc.), but unless they promise explicitly not to modify them, don't count on your images staying exactly the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleb
    Jun 8, 2018 at 13:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually yes. But they sell this as a SERVICE. But even then they may change the quality on a website - i.e. a user looking at a photo on a low resolution table may not get a full resolution copy AT THIS MOMENT (though a download link may exist). Particularly phones will get lower resolution images to save their bandwidth. \$\endgroup\$
    – TomTom
    Jun 8, 2018 at 13:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Display resolution will almost always be different from the original even if you're viewing the original file. There are only so many pixels on a computer screen. \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleb
    Jun 8, 2018 at 13:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, but it does not make sense to send a 42megapixel image when the customer can not see it - on a normal website. \$\endgroup\$
    – TomTom
    Jun 8, 2018 at 14:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer comes across as having a very aggressive tone, to me. Also, I don't see much basis for your claim that reducing the resolution of a photo "is not damage." It makes the photo worse than it was before: that seems like damage to me. Obviously, if you upload your files to a service, that service could change them. But it also seems natural to assume that they won't. Yes, it may be naive to assume that, but it's natural and it's not the sort of thing that the average user of such a site is likely to consider. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 8, 2018 at 16:14

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