What are Private Photos and why are the MLSs of Northern California discussing it? Please refer to this article on Removing Photos from the MLS for background on this issue. SFARMLS has implemented this new feature to balance the needs of the real estate practitioner community, who require the photos for doing comparative sale analysis, with the needs of home buyers that have a right to a reasonable level of privacy.

How changes to the MLS's system for handling photos will affect you

Data Feed Change Date: Metadata was updated on June 21st, 2022. You can now see all of the fields affecting photo privacy in your metadata resources for MEDIA.

User Interface Update: SFAR Members gained access to features for marking their listing photos as private on July 12th 2022. Please refer to this article for information for Agents about private photos.

Metadata Fields:

Description and Implementation:

The Private Pictures feature will allow SFARMLS members to set permissions on each photo of their listing that will make it either a Public photo or a Private photo. If Public, the photo may appear on publicly accessible Internet sites. When Private, the photo must not appear on public internet sites and is only allowed to be displayed within the MLS (and to authenticated MLS participants and subscribers) on the Internet, once the listing is in an Off-Market status (Pending, Sold, Expired, Held, Canceled and Sold Off-MLS).

The Private Pictures feature has a count for Public Pictures and a count for Private Pictures. The current Picture Count field will continue to contain the total per-listing picture count.

To indicate the permissions for each photo, the new PrivatePicture field has been added to your data feed in the Media/PPIC resource and class of the metadata. The default for the field will be set to Public, therefore all pictures will be Public immediately after implementation.

To review the count for Public pictures and/or Private pictures, the new PictureCountPublic and PictureCountPrivate fields have been added to your data feed in the Property resource of the metadata. You may need to retrieve and review metadata in order to see that the fields are available. 


The new PrivatePicture field MUST be used as the primary indicator of displaying a listing photo on the internet. If obtaining photo URL’s, this will require a change to processes when determining photos for display per listing. If you are using GET OBJECT from the Property resource to obtain photo files and not the URLs, this will also require a change in your processes. We suggest that you use the values in PictureCountPublic and PictureCountPrivate from the Property resource to trigger a check of PrivatePicture in Media/PPIC.


You are now in receipt of the informational flag that indicates whether or not a photo can be shown on your site. If the flag is set to NO, then you are not permitted to display the photo publicly. 

NOTE: If you are a Brokerage or Franchise that operates a back office system (whether developed in house, or as part of a VOW software system you have licensed) and you are a Broker Participant of SFARMLS, you are permitted to retain the private photos for use by the Agent Subscribers of SFARMLS that work in your company. Retained photos must not appear on your public facing website(s) or applications where the public can see them.

Implementation deadline and compliance

The deadline for implementation has now passed and all data feed recipients are now required to be in compliance. We will be disabling any data feeds that power websites or applications that are not in compliance with the photo privacy rule as they are discovered. In the event that your data feed is found not to be in compliance, or is disabled, we will make every effort to help you get back into compliance in order to restore your access to MLS data.

Jay Pepper-Martens is the Chief Technology Officer at SFAR. He, along with SFAR's MLS Director Hud Bixler, has crafted this strategy for meeting the needs of Agents and Consumers regarding photo data.

If you have questions about the new Private Photos feature of the MLS, please reach out to Jay Pepper-Martens via SFAR's MLS Support Team by clicking "New Support Ticket" at the top of this page. Include your question there and Jay or Hud will get back to you.