January 10, 2013

How to Have Your Pictures Removed from Other Sites (and other internet privacy tips)

I realize that this tutorial is not craft-related.  However, I hope this will be helpful information to some of you.

You see, several months ago someone took a picture of one of my boys and added inappropriate text to it.  The person you used the photo obviously had no idea who I was.  He or she likely found my image through an innocent google search.  However, the photo was taken and edited to become a joke.  (It was a picture of him in his Thor costume with a joke about getting drunk.)

One of you kind readers brought it to my attention, giving me a link to facebook where the image had been shared and liked over a thousand times.  When I saw it my heart sunk and I felt sick.  You see, I have been pretty open about using my children in photos and I love sharing my life with all of you.

If it would have been someone just borrowing a photo or even stealing a tutorial I would have probably understood.  However, they took my photo of my child and added inappropriate text and that's what made me instantly furious.  Did they not read the name of my blog? :)

So, I thought it would be helpful to explain the process of removing the picture in case any of you have something similar occur.  Not only that, but I thought I'd explain some extra security measures you can take to help you out as well.

1) Find the source.  I probably should have calmed down a little before I sent a message to the person who shared my photo on facebook.  It is always most beneficial to be kind, even when you're upset.  I kind of went off on him, assuming that he had created the picture.  He hadn't.  After changing my tone a bit I asked him if he could direct me to where he found the picture.  He did.

You see, you can search for an image by the address, but that doesn't always work - especially if the image has been tampered with and resaved.  Anyone can take a screen shot of any picture on the internet and then pass it off as theirs.  Scary.

2) Find the web site owner's contact info.  I now knew the original site that the facebook guy found it from, but I wasn't sure how to get in touch with anyone.  I did some research and found out you can find the contact info for anyone with a web site.  You just google "whois _______" and add the address of the site.  It will pull up a lot of options and most of them will give you an email address and often times a full street address.

IMPORTANT SIDENOTE:  That was another thing I hadn't realized and it kind of freaked me out.  When I googled myself that way it was extremely easy to find my actual address.  If you are still using a blogspot address, you're probably okay, but if you have your own domain it's registered to you under what address you provided.  I use Network Solutions to register my site and I found out you can pay about $9 more to have their security added.  That means they'll list their address instead of yours.  I don't have a P.O. Box or alternate address to use, so this was a great option for me.  Now you won't find my personal info when you use the whois directory.

3) Contact that person and ask them kindly to remove the image.  Explain that it was stolen.  The owner might have an employee that created the image.  Explain that if it isn't removed that you will file a complaint with google.

Hopefully that will work.  You must remember that even if they remove the image immediately, it might take a while until the image stops appearing in a google search.

4) If the person doesn't remove the image you can file your complaint with google HERE.  That link wasn't easy to find.  It took a lot of searching on my part.

After I did all of this I asked the guy from Facebook kindly to remove the image as well, explaining how it made me feel.  He was very nice and removed it immediately.

I felt really relieved knowing it was all over.  However, I also thought about the security issues involved.  I know that everyone talks about watermarking your pictures, but in my view that's a just a warm fuzzy and a whole lot of false security.  No one puts watermarks across the focal point of the photo or there's no point in having a photo.  You put them a little more out of the way, where they can easily be cropped off.  And as I mentioned, with a screen shot and a small crop your images can become anyone's.

So my recommendation?  First off, I think it's important not to sweat the small stuff.  Most photo sharing actually promotes your site and helps you.  Most people aren't trying to ruin you.  However, if it involves your child and something it portrayed in a negative way then I believe action is needed.

And, secondly I highly recommend googling your own site with the "whois _______" and seeing what info is available to anyone.  I picked a few blogs I read and did a search this way.  I was floored by how many home addresses I found.

Some of you more protective people might be shocked that I've continued to blog and use pictures of my kids.  It's something I've actually thought a lot about.  I choose to share my life.  I believe that sharing can do a whole lot of good.  I know that I am uplifted by reading blogs of people who I feel like I know.  I think the sharing brings us together and helps us feel connected.  I don't feel like all of that needs to be given up because someone is not considerate.  However, I believe that knowing how to fight any problems like this is essential.  And now we both know how.

Thanks for stopping by.  I'll probably be back later today with boy or girl news :)  Stay tuned.


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