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Facebook photo ends up on porn, dating sites

Publication Date : 30-04-2012

 

SINGAPORE: Housewife Jules Rahim was shocked when a friend tipped her off that her photo was featured on a pornographic website. That was not the only unauthorised use of the picture of her in a bikini, which she had posted on her Facebook account three years ago. Another friend told her that the photo had also popped up on a dating site called sgGirls.com. It was accompanied by a caption which listed a telephone number to call and how much it cost to chat. "It's embarrassing," said the mother of four children, aged one to 10. "People I know may think wrongly of me." Rahim, 32, has filed two police reports - one about the porn site and the other about the dating site. The Straits Times understands that at least two other Singaporean women have also discovered that their Facebook pictures have surfaced on these two websites. The three are victims of what is known as 'photo-jacking' - the act of stealing pictures from social media like Facebook and Twitter and exploiting them for use on, say, porn sites. Earlier this year, there were reports in the United States and New Zealand concerning Facebook pictures of teenagers and children which had also ended up on porn portals.

 

Housewife Jules Rahim was shocked when a friend tipped her off that her photo was featured on a pornographic website.

That was not the only unauthorised use of the picture of her in a bikini, which she had posted on her Facebook account three years ago.

Another friend told her that the photo had also popped up on a dating site called sgGirls.com. It was accompanied by a caption which listed a telephone number to call and how much it cost to chat.

"It's embarrassing," said the mother of four children, aged one to 10. "People I know may think wrongly of me."

Rahim, 32, has filed two police reports - one about the porn site and the other about the dating site.

The Straits Times understands that at least two other Singaporean women have also discovered that their Facebook pictures have surfaced on these two websites.

The three are victims of what is known as 'photo-jacking' - the act of stealing pictures from social media like Facebook and Twitter and exploiting them for use on, say, porn sites.

Earlier this year, there were reports in the United States and New Zealand concerning Facebook pictures of teenagers and children which had also ended up on porn portals.

Rahim intends to also file a magistrate's complaint at the Subordinate Courts for intentional harassment.

"I want to sue them. These websites have no right to use my pictures without my consent," said Rahim, who is married to an assistant manager working at one of the integrated resorts here.

The police said they are investigating the matter but could not confirm by press time if this is the first such complaint they have received. The other two Singaporean victims could not be contacted as they are travelling.

Lawyer Bryan Tan, a director of Keystone Law Corp, said the victims have the right to demand that the sites remove their photos. But it is hard to enforce Singapore laws on operators based overseas.

sgGirls.com is hosted in Dusseldorf in Germany, while the other portal is based in Los Angeles, United States. Rahim has contacted sgGirls.com but has yet to hear from its operator. She has no contact details for the other portal.

It is also unclear if the websites or a third party - presumably a Facebook 'friend' of the victims - had actually put up the photos. If it is the latter, the victims can take defamation action here against the third party. But the problem of tracking down the culprit - who may not even be the person he or she claims to be - remains, Tan said.

In the face of such difficulties, security and social media experts advise netizens to set privacy options at the highest levels. "Limit access to your personal posts to people you know and trust," said David Hall, Asia-Pacific product marketing manager of security software maker Norton. "Also, don't add people to your trusted list unless you know exactly who they are."

This is because online thieves can create a fake profile and pretend to be an existing friend asking to be "re-added".

Once the request is accepted, the person can access any picture shared in the target's social network.

Hence, even changing one's privacy settings to allow only friends to access one's personal information and photos may not be enough, said Hall.

Assistant Professor Giorgos Cheliotis from the National University of Singapore's department of communications and new media said netizens should think twice before posting pictures. "Even a seemingly innocent photo can take on a new, more insidious character if it is posted on a site with erotic content," he said.

Rahim, who said her photo was taken just after she had her second child, agrees. "It was taken after I had a dip in the pool for relaxation. I'm angry something casual and normal has been taken and used in the wrong context."

 

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