Why are my picture and name showing up on porn sites without my permission?

   Posted July 22, 2007 by David Kirk in Internet

A great buddy of mine called me last night to ask why his name and other personal information are showing up on porn sites. He is in a reputation sensitive field and was worried that people searching for his name in search engines would be directed to porn sites. Here is how it happens and what you can do about it.

As more and more publicly identifiable information is being placed on the internet, evil people are using this information to promote porn websites. I have seen pictures and personal information being used without permission in three different ways.

How it is happening:

The most common time this occurs is through web-scraping bots. The programs grab information from people around the web and then append this information to common porn pages. These webmasters hope that this technique will improve their search engine traffic.

Some ethnic-related porn sites will steal profile pictures and names to advertise their web sites. For example, a Latino porn site might display a profile picture of an obviously Hispanic lady named Bonita. The advertisement would suggest that Bonita had erotic pictures inside when actually the young lady’s name and picture were stolen off her employer’s web site and are being used without her permission.

In a related scam, pictures and names are being harvested with web scraping bots and then being used to create profiles on myspace or other social networks. These are then used on these social networks to try to redirect people to porn sites.

How can it be prevented:

The most frequent targets of these site-scraping bots are school and employer websites that have long lists of headshots and names. Social networks are used less frequently. Unless it is vital that this information be released to the public, ask your organization to remove this information from the web.

Unless the information needs to be search engine accessible, hiding the content from bots in rich media such as Flash is another option. Placing an obvious watermark on the picture (such as the name of the school or employer) destroys the illusion and makes the picture less likely to be used.

How can it be detected:

Searching for yourself in all the search engines is really the best method. By wrapping your name in quotes, you will focus your search, but you may miss sites that are referencing you only by your first name. Even broad search engine queries may miss sites that are using only your pictures.

Reputation-protection companies can be expensive and it is uncertain how effective they are.

How can I remove the information?

Officially trying to have the information removed from these porn sites can be difficult to impossible. In theory, the pictures are copyrighted by you or your organization; therefore, you (or a lawyer) should be able to draft DMCA notices and forward them to the website owners, the search engines, and the web site’s ISP.

If nothing else, you should email the search engines and the porn web sites and request that the information be removed. Keeping a copy of this information and the replies will be nice to show future interested parties (employers) that this was done without your permission. However, without an official DMCA request, search engines and ISPs are unlikely to act.

Since the information was likely ripped from your employer’s or school’s website, contacting the legal and IT departments there are your best bet. Pressuring them to act on your behalf is your best chance for success. You will need to show them the page from which you believe the information was ripped and the new pages that are using this information without your permission.


About David Kirk

David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.
View more articles by David Kirk

The Conversation

Follow the reactions below and share your own thoughts.

  • Anonymous

    As long as the site does not have an employment contract signed with me, I can sue them and such charges can end up with jail for the website owner. As long as they do not have my written accept to use the photo, they could be in trouble.

  • Jill

    Does this mean that your employer has the right to use your name as a search engine without your permission?

  • Melissa

    I currently am being placed through alot of emotional stress these last several weeks now. Someone, or “bots” have been and are using my name without my consent… Feeling very violated, misappropriation,Likeness of my name ect….

    I enjoyed reading your article, as I have been diligently been reading more so about this matter these last two weeks now. Truly respect that you also help Patients in the ICU.. And also by writing your article Thank you Dr.Kirk. Truly… You have helped me to understand a lot more what’s going on with this matter.

    These “bots” are also using my “city” location and my full names. My maiden name comes up under the search engine ..Either way you type in any of my current, or previous names, which I am still known as. My two Married names are hyphenated also.

    I have been in contact with now 26 Law firms, which cannot, or choose not to assist me. I have been notified that my personal name, which my name is the only “unique” name in our City, surrounding area’s, and told our entire State (Fl.) …Thankfully. Attorneys have questioned the “domain”name, being that I have no rights to, as the link you search for under my name isn’t personally mine,nor anyone’s claim…..But their redirecting link refers to “art”, which my main Business is associated with. And description under my name(s) is my town and “llcmy maiden name-my current last names”, after the “.com”.
    There’s alot to learn about internet law’s..The “can’s” & “cannot’s” for going after these malicous “bots”/Companies messing with anothers life. Disappointing…To say the least!

    Also, I own an Events/Entertainment/Fundraising Business ,( For-Profit) and completing my State/IRS legal paperwork for my (Florida) Non-Profit Business… Finally. All will be established next week, therefore, I’m in awe after reading all my names being affliated with an adult sex/porn website… Actually two Sites now. Very well know website infact, that has made headlines few years back for using other peopel’s name(s), as well without consent.

    I’m terrified what this could do for me/Company’s…. Know if I were someone about to offer a large Donation,or my Sposonship for/to a Non-,that I would check their backround information more in detail and whom I were assisting.

    I believe a popular “social” network could be the cause, as I only use my Maiden name on their network.
    Recently had several people inquire if my new “Entertainment/Events” Business was in relation to “Porn/Sex”… They clicked on the same two sites with my name on and found a big icky Vagina.. How many other people will believe when assisitng my Non-Profit, that this could be me?!…. Especially if they have never seen my face..Only my Business name ?! ….So, it’s already has begun..

    I’m embarrassed and loathe these “bots”,Companies, or person(s) doing this to my respected reputation….

    And worse, many of the Law Firm’s, (over 26 in last 9 days), that I have spoken in detail with regarding this situation have declined taking my Case on my behalf. This is exploiting my name, and my name being used to intrique more clients/members is incredibly frustrating for me to know, espeically for my Family, but more imporatantly my Husband.
    I have been in contact with seven major internet defamation sites, which they offer to asssit me for around $2,ooo. They’d remove this listing fully? What about the following reoccuring times thereafter? Or have to pay them once more for new listings with my name ?

    I have already written “Yahoo”, which today still they have not removed these posting’s with my name. Have another Attorney appointment in one week & have to pay for that also. Retainer is $2,500…. I’m broke….
    Much of my time has been wasted from these “bots”.
    I’m furious that this matter, which may cause future harm as well to not only me..
    But more importantly..My two Business’s..
    The proceeds for my Non-Profit are being donated to our County’s Public School’s ( Elem, Junior High and High Schools Porgrams that have been not well,since budget cuts last five yeasr. )
    My Father is a HS Physic’s Teacher & only Lacrosse Coach in our County with also being very well respected…
    Thank you..