Stealing pictures.
November 26, 2011 4:21 AM   Subscribe

Is it proper for someone to make a profile page using a picture of myself grabbed from another website and make it public without my permission?

So I just signed up with this new start up website wherein you can host bands to play at your own place. I submitted basic details about myself and they sent me a confirmation email of my sign up, and that's it.

A day after, I receive another email from one of the people from the group and telling me that he made a profile page for me "to give some weight to the home page" and "give confidence to potential members". When I clicked on the link he gave me to go to my profile page, I was surprised to see a picture of myself there, and a map of my place. That freaked me out, because first, I never gave or uploaded a picture for them to use, and second, they could have at least warned me that they will be the one making profile pages for new members instead of us doing that part.

I told him about this, and that I did not like the idea of him making a profile page for me, using my picture he grabbed from another website. Sure, the internet is an open thing, but there are certain limitations I guess. He could have asked me first if it's okay to post my picture, or even, to make a profile page for me grabbing my details and picture from other sites. The picture he grabbed was uploaded by myself, so I have sole responsibility to it, that's a big difference.

He said "your profile is in "draft" mode (I don't want to erase your presence straight away), so I only need to push "publish" to make it appear." This was his reply after asking him to take down the page he made for me.

Is this right guys? What do I do? What actions can I make about this?
posted by LittleMissItneg to Law & Government (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No, that is decidedly not ok. It may be legal, depending on whether the picture they grabbed was subject to copyright, but the question is this site's lack of respect for your personal information. Seriously? Posting your picture with a map to your address? No.

This site owner does not seem like the kind of person you should trust with any of your personal information.

1) Send an e-mail saying you are canceling your membership and that you do not give permission for them to post any information about you.

2) If you paid them, ask for a refund and tell them to cancel any autopayments that may be scheduled in the future.

3) Check the site and your credit card statements every once in a while to make sure they complied with 1 and 2.
posted by slmorri at 4:37 AM on November 26, 2011 [5 favorites]

I agree this is messed up, but I just wanted to say it sounds like his response means "there is no need to take it down because it is not up to begin with" -- i.e. you would have to take the final step to publish it, and right now none of that information is available to the public without your ok. So if your concern is what can you do about the information being public, it does not seem to be public. If your concern is that he even filled in some information for you without making it public, yes, I would still be put off by that.
posted by Nattie at 5:10 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

A day after, I receive another email from one of the people from the group and telling me that he made a profile page for me "to give some weight to the home page" and "give confidence to potential members".

The page he made isn't "for you." He's quite clear that it exists primarily to benefit the site, not you. He's using your face and detailed information to make his site seem more legitimate and useful. I wouldn't be thrilled about it either.
posted by jon1270 at 5:16 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

That is Facebook-level abrogation of user expectations and privacy, and I would immediately close my account and warn all my friends. These guys seem to not understand boundaries.
posted by dhartung at 5:53 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

(And I mean that literally: See Zuckerberg's predecessor site Facemash.)
posted by dhartung at 5:57 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

You said this is a start-up - quite possible that they are clueless about the more intricate details of privacy and copyright, both in terms of what the law says and in terms of what clients would be happy with. I'm working for a web start-up, and they are doing something not entirely dissimilar (though no pics involved), and I am continuously trying to tell my bosses that it doesn't seem OK to rely on people using their "opt-out" privilege - you gotta give them the choice to opt in. Not much luck though, because they see it is as good "customer service", meaning the company does the hard work pre-publishing, after which they hand over page-admin to the client (who can then edit, update and publish). Another one of their reasons is that you end up with a better profile, which benefits both the clients and the company. I don't know if they have specifically asked for legal advice re. this problem (whenever I bring it up, there are hints that it is OK, legally, but noone has ever explicitly said so, which makes me doubtful).

So, they might not be coming from a bad place, but I think you should let them know that you are uncomfortable with it, and that you would like sole editorial clearance for your page. Personally, I would be weary of any company which does something like this, especially so soon after sign-up - for me it indicates a basic incompatibility re. how clients and their personal autonomy are viewed (even if you still have the option to edit your profile page to your heart's content).
posted by miorita at 6:01 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but it sounds to me that he's trying to help new members. He put together a mocked-up page for you, kept it in draft mode so you can make changes, and then you choose to publish the page. Maybe he pulled a photo and map just as an example of what can be done? Maybe some other new members aren't as clever with putting together a profile page?

I'd give him the benefit of doubt, make changes to the page, then publish it. No harm done.
posted by Houstonian at 6:05 AM on November 26, 2011

Published or not published yet, my concern here is that he is doing something that freaks me out grabbing a picture of mine from another website to put on a potentially public profile page that I didn't have any idea of until he gave me the link. What I wanted happen is that, they could have at least briefed me and told me that they will be making profile pages for each new members. But even then, that's still weird because almost sign up websites don't do that, at least the ones I sign up to. It could have been more understandable for me with advanced notice. What I do not understand is taking my picture from another site and put it on a new public site, together with a map of the address I gave to them (which is supposedly private as well and should not be shown public).

posted by LittleMissItneg at 6:19 AM on November 26, 2011

Maybe the guy responding is just a guy that works there? He sounds like a tech guy that gives technical responses (with answers that he thinks answers the questions, but not realizing he leaving out key info that the rest of the world doesn't know), rather than legal "official" response a PR department would give. Is it possible that what he did wasn't in the service agreement when you signed up? Those things are usually really long and no one ever reads it.
But anyway, Mark Zuckerberg did the same thing when he started up facebook. And I know a lot of other startups that have done the same thing. They want their site to seem like it has "real" traffic, rather than a bunch of any, blank profiles.
posted by udon at 6:46 AM on November 26, 2011

I checked his name and it looks like he is the creator, or one of the creators of the start up.
posted by LittleMissItneg at 8:02 AM on November 26, 2011

"Sure, the internet is an open thing"

This reminds me of the Cooks Source debacle:

"But honestly Monica, the web is considered 'public domain' and you should be happy we just didn't 'lift' your whole article and put someone else's name on it!"
posted by morninj at 8:54 AM on November 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Miorita has it. They overstepped. It's not malevolently intended, but definitely presumptuous. I did some work for a startup recently and they asked the staff (uh, mostly me) to create (but not publish) profiles for participating entities. This helped the website because the participants could see what their profiles might look like in final form (and thus speed up the profile creation/commitment process so the site could generate more content to attract new users/investors). We never dared to take photo content, though!
posted by mochapickle at 8:54 AM on November 26, 2011

Also, this is copying, not stealing.
posted by morninj at 8:56 AM on November 26, 2011

Sounds like he was trying to save you some work by grabbing what he could from publicly available info. It's not at all like the Cooks source thing because it's not posted, the guy asked permission and the poster had expressed interest in the site in the first place.

People often take publicly available pictures of me and use them on say, announcements that I'm speaking somewhere (that I have agreed to do), when I've not had the time to yet email them one. I don't think this is problematic. It would be problematic if they posted it without your permission. But they didn't.
posted by Maias at 1:57 PM on November 26, 2011

What can you do about it? There's nothing to do. The profile he made for you only exists on his computer/server, but it's not public. You can ask him to delete it entirely (but you'd have no proof that he did) but, considering the nature of the website - the bands are going to want to know who you are and where they are going to be playing - I am guessing he thought he'd do himself and you a favor. It was pretty presumptuous and kind of creepy on his part... and what he should have done was email you and say, "I'm considering making profiles for some new members, and here's what it'd look like and what it'd contain --" and that email have a link to his profile. This is basic business 101.
posted by sm1tten at 2:17 PM on November 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

It doesn't seem to me like he overstepped if it wasn't ever published.
posted by small_ruminant at 5:43 PM on November 26, 2011

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