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 should see the fields affecting photo privacy in your metadata resources for MEDIA.

User Interface Update: SFAR Members will be able to access features for marking their listing photos as private starting on the morning of 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 Internet sites. When Private, the photo must not appear on internet sites and is only allowed to be displayed within the MLS, and to authenticated users on the Internet, when 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 URL’s, this will also require a change in processes. You may use PictureCountPublic and PictureCountPrivate in 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. 

Implementation deadline

We will be doing spot checks of sites for the next 30 days looking for sites that have not implemented this field correctly so that we can provide informational feedback indicating the problem. We hope to have addressed all outstanding feed problems by September 9th, 2022. We will be selectively shutting off data feeds for non-compliance with the photo rule by September 30th, 2022.

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.