So, before I begin, let me just comment about protecting your images. A long while back, I wrote a blog post about disabling the right click function on your blog so people can't steal your images. Well, it turns out that there are ways around it...like enlarging the image and then right clicking on it. Personally, I host my image through Flickr and mark it to private so people can't click on it and bring it into a new browser window and save it. However, I have been told that some people have had success dragging my images onto their desktop. So, I am sorry I don't have the answer to that. I have had a lot of follow up comments on that post, and I am sorry I haven't responded earlier.
Once you read through the rest of my post, this will become more and more clear...the only way to protect your images is to not put them on the internet at all...and if you must, do it in a private forum.
So. Here we go.
Seven weeks ago, I had a baby. My third baby, actually, and amidst the absolute and complete lack of sleep and the crazy hormonal imbalanced anxiety, I had a couple of real eye opening experiences. Allow me to share.
First, I have to preface this by saying I. am. paranoid...and not only am I paranoid in general, but when it comes to my children, I am pretty much a basketcase. So, moving on....I often have photographers that I have never met 'friend' me on Facebook. This is not unusual for me, and we typically have lots of other photographer 'friends' in common, so I will usually add these requests and stick them in a Limited Profile category. Easy Peasy. Well, the day before I was going into the hospital to have my baby, a photographer I had never met- but had tons of photographer friends in common with- requested me as a friend. I added her but then realized that since I was on my itouch that I couldn't access the Limited Profile function. No bother, I figured I would do it later. However, seeing as how I had my pending labor on my mind, I totally forgot about it.
Fast forward to a week later. This photographer 'friend' has commented on my wall a few times...commented on pictures I posted of my precious new baby, and sent me a private message. The message said:
"Hi Joy, congratulations for new baby!! Your blog is blocked, me too have blog (I'm new in blog)and I wish I could enjoy your blog if there is no problem."
What the broken english? I was so confused and checked out her page, which seemed completely normal. TONS of posts, written in proper grammar, with no signs of shadiness. So, I figured her account had been hacked. Since I hadn't met her, I decided to write on her wall, "Hey, did you just send me a message?" to which she promptly responded, "Yes, Joy."
But something felt off. I decided to go to her business page (which was not listed on her facebook page, which I found odd) and found her business email. I sent her a quick message just verifying that she had messaged me. She hadn't. I told her that her page was probably hacked and that someone was spamming her friends, because they had responded to me on her wall. Her next response confused me even more, "No, I don't have anything from you on my wall....this is bizarre, please send me more information." I took a screen shot of her wall (I told you I am paranoid!) and sent it to her, and her next response was, "OMG, that is me, but that is SO NOT ME!!"
Someone was impersonating her. After much digging we found out that this someone was not only impersonating her, but also her husband, and her sister. And it had been going on for months. This person had created fake pages for all of them, and posting every day as if they were them. Stealing their profile pictures and any unprotected photo albums they had, and posting them as if they were theirs. They even stalked her photography blog and reposted things on the facebook wall that she would blog. This person knew INTIMATE details about this girl and her family, things they had found on her family blog. It was the yuckiest, creepiest, sickest feeling uncovering all of this. I just wanted to jump through the computer and give this girl a big, huge, hug. The imposter had tons of 'friends' who were all under the assumption that this was the real girl, and guess what? As a result, that imposter had access to all of those friends information...pictures....posts....who knows how many people they could impersonate with all that information?
What creeped me out even further was the fact that not only had the faker asked me for an invite to my blog, but had also tried to 'friend' my husband. I strongly feel that we would have been next on the impersonation list. I don't understand what someone would have to gain by doing that, but I do know this:
That is not normal. It is weird, and especially weird that someone in a foreign country would want to do it, which makes me feel that they must have SOMETHING to gain by doing it.
I feel absolutely HORRIBLE that this wierdo had access to all the images I posted of my children, not to mention I was already feeling very mother-hen about my brand new baby. It sickened me that this person had been commenting on my pictures of him, our name choice for him...everything. Seriously disgusting. Again, I can't even let my mind wander to a place that wonders what a wierdo would do with his images. *shudder*
The fact is...any of my 'friends' could be hacked, and lately a lot have (you can tell because they spam your wall), and while that hacker is in their account, they can see everything about my account. Personal information, and (the clincher for me) pictures of my kids. Which is why I have removed them from Facebook. It is JUST NOT WORTH IT to me to not have control over those images.
By the way, this story made the news in Utah. http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=12933972
Okay, so let me interject some personal feelings here. As I said, this happened the week I gave birth, so not only was I totally freaked out, but I was also sleep deprived, weepy, hormonal, and a bit nuts. I felt like it was totally unfair that this had to happen during a time when I was feeling so emotional, I was especially resentful that this person had been able to see all my children, know their names, etc. I felt totally violated, and pretty much felt like in the arena of internet safety, I was completely freaked out. I wanted to delete everything, all my blogs, facebook, just quit the internet all together.
A few months have passed now, and I have calmed down a little, but I still feel like I was taught an important message: If you want something to remain private, don't put it on the internet. I took an internet safety class a few years ago, and the person teaching the class made a very good point. Would you walk up to a strange man on the street and introduce him to all your children? Would you go into a bar or a strip club and walk up to the creepers there and tell them your children's birth dates, where they go to school, where they take dance class, etc? Of course not! For some reason, everyone feels so 'safe' putting all that information on their public blogs, facebook pages, etc.
The fact is, you have no idea who actually has access to the information you put on the internet. Even when you think you are protected, you have no idea if you really are. If someone's facebook account gets hacked...if their email gets hacked...you no longer have control of that information.
Anyway, I hope this strikes a little bit of awareness for some when it comes to internet safety.
I am climbing off of my soapbox now. ;)