28 August 2015

A Stolen Identity

It has been around ten years since I decided to take the plunge into social media and join Facebook.  My friend told me about the site and to be honest, the idea of a social media network being used as a way to catch up with friends and share images seemed a very alien concept.  What was wrong with talking on the phone, texting or developing pictures?  More to the point, was it safe?

Ten years on and I find myself with a Facebook account, a Twitter handle, an Instagram account and a blog.  My thoughts, and indeed my images are out there in the world; there to be read and viewed by anyone who has the right social media account or the name of my blog.  Even someone tapping my name into Google can peer in through a virtual window into my life.

The thing is, when you put yourself out there on the internet, even with just a simple Facebook profile; what compromises are you making in relation to your identity when it can be accessed all over the world?

photo credit: Via photopin (license)

I remember Googling myself for the first time and recoiling in shock when I saw my image coming up again and again.  Images that I shared on my blog without a thought, but yet appearing on Google just by typing my name. Naive perhaps, but I never realised before that point  that my pictures would end up anywhere else than where I posted them.

(I have deleted the pictures not of me, as I do not have their permission to share)

MyVoucherCodes recently undertook research that revealed that 23% of social media users have had their images used without their permission.  When you think that Facebook alone has 500 million users, that is 115 million people that have had their images misused.

Just let that figure sink in a second,  115 MILLION people.

This can lead to anything from a brand using your photograph to promote their product right through to someone stealing your image and reposting on a hate site, such as the now deleted "FatPeopleHate" on Reddit.  This has happened to more than one body positivity blogger I know and has resulted in thousands of comments of hatred, both on the thread and also on the blogger sites themselves.

Even photographs that we do not actively publish can be stolen by people who know how, such as the hacked iCloud photographs stolen of celebrities.  They did not choose to publish their images, yet they were shared by hackers for the world to see.

So what is the answer?  Retreat from the internet, remove your images and let those who would steal them win?  For me, that answer has to be no.  I have certain limitations of what I will and I will share online, be it an opinion or an image.  But if someone were to steal my images for the purpose of  ridicule; they deserve nothing but contempt and a lack of what they really crave, attention.

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