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

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.

David Kirk
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.


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