Major photo-business association PMAI says enough already, issues industry-wide security wake-up call

by Gannon Burgett

posted Wednesday, July 22, 2015 at 5:26 PM EDT

There's been a flurry of serious security breaches of major online photo services sites in the last month, with a number of very high-profile sites shutting down entirely to avoid further hacking. Personal and financial data of millions of consumers has been compromised. 

Today, trade association PMAI issued a wake-up call for the photo industry to make consumer security a priority. We agree.

Three weeks ago, Wal-Mart Canada announced its online printing services had been breached. A week later, CVS announced its CVS Photos service had been breached, potentially revealing the payment information of millions of customers. No more than five days after that, Costco, Rite Aid and UK-based Tesco all shut down their online photo services due to security breaches as well.

The common denominator between all these players is Vancouver-based PNI Digital Media, who operate approximately 8,000 kiosks and handle over 18 million transactions a year for the above services and others, including Kodak, Snapfish, Photobucket and more.

In response to this widespread problem, Photo Marketing Association International (PMAI) has issued a call for an industry-wide initiative to provide consumers with simple and secure platforms that ensure their data, images and payment information are protected from outside attacks.

Georgia McCabe, CEO and executive director at PMAI explained in a press release announcing the initiative:

‘When the mass adoption of digital cameras began in 2000, many mass retailers relied on specialty companies to quickly start their online photo retailing activities and without the need to deal with the actual transactions, merchandising models and hosting services. As a result, there has been no mass retailer taking the lead to drive these services forward. This temporary security issue should be taken as a wake-up call highlighting to the whole industry that a comprehensive business model is now long overdue. The rapidly evolving demand for providing relevant services to the exploding population of connected smartphone consumers is only a further call to action.’

At PMAI’s upcoming InnovationNow Photo Business and Technology Summit, which takes place on September 27–28 at the Hilton Parc 55 in San Francisco, California, PMAI will present and ‘provide a platform for top-executives from imaging and retailing companies, independent experts, photographers and Silicon Valley technology firms to discuss new business models for the industry as well as new and unique ways of serving consumers who experience their pictures on social and mobile networks.’

Problems of consumer data security obviously extend far beyond the photo industry, but it's encouraging to see an industry organization using their position to call for a united effort to deal with the issue. There are a lot of people now thinking twice about using online services to order prints and other means to enjoy their photos. The industry can't afford that - hopefully PMAI's call will be answered in force, and new, more secure structures set up to handle consumer data will result.