Who put my picture online?

Photo of me with no head.

Have you seen this man?

I've always been careful not to give too much away online. It's not like I have dark secrets, but I do want to control the information that exists about me on the Internet. I want to protect myself against those cyber-stalkers I've been hearing so much about. This used to be simple and easy, but the Internet is changing and people are sharing more. I might be paranoid, but what if people are talking about me?

My friends know lots of information about me. Do I have any rights to protect this information? When a company holds information about me, there is normally a formal agreement to protect my rights. If a company takes a photo of me, I need to sign a model release form if they want to use the image publicly. I haven't got any formal agreements with my friends. I've always assumed that we sort of had an informal agreement and they'd just know I wouldn't want them to share stuff about me with strangers. Wouldn't they?

There are lots of sharing websites now. You can share photos, your favourite websites, personal thoughts. You can share almost anything. It's very easy to do, but sometimes the privacy options are more complicated. How clued up are your friends on how to create private viewing groups, or do they even think they're worth the bother?

I started thinking about this when a friend of mine discovered a popular photo sharing site and posted all his photos. He could have made them all private, but to make things simple for us he didn't. I was the only person to object. I don't think they realised how easy it was for other people to find our photos or even that people we didn't know would be able to see them without knowing the exact URL. He made them private when I asked and it wasn't really a problem. Most of my friends agreed that this stuff should be private, but most weren't really that bothered, some thought I was over reacting and one was annoyed that he'd have another password to remember.

Was I overreacting? Pictures contain a lot of information, and if someone I didn't know had access to a large collection of personal photos they could find out a lot about me. Most of it would be harmless, but maybe not all of it would be. I've thought of lots of extreme horror stories of what a potential cyber-stalker could do with this information, if I hadn't put a stop to my friendship group's growing public photo collection. It's probably just my over-active imagination and the result of a vane notion that someone would want to stalk me.

I think it's an interesting issue though. What do you think? Would you mind if a friend of yours published all the photos they had of you? Would you want to know these photos were online? Do you think you have the right to stop them if you don't want them to? Celebrities don't seem to have the right when people publish embarrassing photos of them. Are these cyber-stalkers really as dangerous as I've been led to believe?

ScrambledHeads said

I would compare this to when AOL released log files of peoples searches, they'd removed personal identifiers (or so they believed) but with a unique ID for one person against each search people still figured out who people were and quite a lot of info about them https://www.zoliblog.com/2006/08/06/aol-just-did-the-unthinkable-boycott-aol/ how much could they figure out from a photo for instance where you live etc etc It's quite worrying potentially. Personally I do make some Photos of myself public but I do so carefully.

Richard Garside said

@ScrambledHeads Wow, I'm glad I don't use AOL. I think it also shows you should be aware of what people are sharing about you online. Also, you should have no dark secrets, just in case.

Dennis P. McCann said

@Richard, you're not wrong to be concerned. I know - I have a stalker.

A woman who lives in Massachusetts has been stalking me for about seven years. So, I fought fire with fire. I found out everything I could about her, from her local police and other sources, and put it all on a website.

That seems to have helped, but every once in a while it starts again.

Richard Garside said

@Dennis that's really scary. I hope she was more of a nuisance than a danger.

A friend of mine was once stopped by a strange man who presented her with a bunch of flowers. He told her how he'd seen her at the bar she worked and followed her home. He'd been doing it for a while and now was the time that they should meet properly. She told him to get lost, and luckily she never heard from him again.

David Rutt said

I'm much more easy going with some of my personal details than you Richard. Perhaps I shouldn't be considering the number of fraudsters there are out there. Plus, there may have been a bit of photoshopping of my image on occasion for amusement (not mine) purposes.

Still, I'm happy to reveal my full name, my age (give or take), the town where I live, my photos and certain amounts of my history. I think it's important to show enough of yourself in a community for people to form an honest opinion of you.

There are quite a few on Newsvine who are more circumspect about personal details than you. It does make it harder to get to know those that only reveal so little of themselves, but it does give them an air of mystery.

Just go with what you feel comfortable with. I should think that I'm more at risk from fraud, but the risk is still small enough for me to be happy with it.

Richard Garside said

@David I think you've made a very good point. This is a community and you can't be too secretive if you want to be a part of it. I do try to be open and I tell people what I'm comfortable sharing. I think the important part is that how much you share is your choice. I felt a little bit like I might lose this choice when my friends started sharing photos of me without asking.

David Rutt said

@Richard Oh, and I quite like that picture behind you there ;)

Richard Garside said

@David thanks, it's one of my better pieces. I've always been really pleased with it.

stevetherobot said

I'm one of those who is pretty circumspect about personal details. I'm reluctant to even use a picture of myself as my avatar. I don't really worry about getting stalked, I just think it is better to be safe and cut down on the risks. As it is, if you were to Google my real name, information about me comes up in the first couple of hits. So even giving my real name would be giving enough information for someone to pretty quickly find out a lot of really detailed information about me.

it does make it harder to get to know those that only reveal so little of themselves

Maybe, but I don't see how knowing that I am a seven foot tall, gay albino yak herder with a speech impediment and a limp would help you get to know me better. Hmmm. I think I may have said to much, I'd better delete this comment.