Hey, Orkut? You suck.

Fair warning: prepare to be outraged.

I don’t know how many of y’all who use Flickr have had this problem, but here’s the thing. Occasionally I get people who add me as their contact who speak very little English, and who have no pictures available in their photostream. If I ignore it, a couple of days later, I’ll get a Flickr message like this (honest to God, I’m copying & pasting one of the emails I’ve gotten):

Catie I found very beautiful, and I can use the photos of her. Please think well. The Catie is the most perfect little girl that I ever knew, I am photographer.
I found this very beautiful little girl, and in my opinion should be a model. She is simply nice, beautiful, sweet … I would like to know her better, and thus allowing me to use the photos of his daughter.
Many people use the photos of her daughter in ORKUT, if you want I can help it.
Kisses, good week and good night.
-name removed-

The first time I got one of these, I wondered what the hell Orkut was, so I did some investigating. Turns out, it’s a social networking site, sort of like Facebook or MySpace, but the users are predominantly in Brazil and India. It’s run by Google, and appears to be a legitimate website from what I can tell.

So, whenever this comes up, I always respond that NO, you may NOT use the photos of my daughter, and then I block them so they can’t see my Flickr pictures anymore. Lately, I’ve been even more proactive: if someone adds me as a contact and they have a vaguely foreign-sounding name and nothing in their photostream? I block them. No questions asked, they’re just gone.

Then, the other day I got an email from someone on Flickr with a link to a profile on Orkut. I followed the link and found this.

(Click to enlarge.)

Somebody set up an account, claiming that they’re me, using my daughter’s picture as their profile pic, and acting all outraged that people are using Catie’s pictures on Orkut. And they add that “Bianca and Daph” (who??) are the only people authorized to use Catie’s pictures. What the ever-loving eff?!?!!

First, I reported this person to Orkut for identity theft. Then I started doing some investigating. Orkut is sort of like Facebook in that you can post a message called a “scrap” (sort of like writing on someone’s wall in FB). I left a message that was borderline hysterical, sort of “who the hell is this? You’re using my daughter’s picture and acting as though you’re me online? TAKE THIS PICTURE DOWN IMMEDIATELY OR I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND ARRRRGGGGHHH HULK SMASH!!!” Or, you know, something to that effect. I’m pretty sure I dropped an f-bomb. (Which probably has less effect on someone who speaks poor English.)

This is the response I got.

No I have not got it very badly and I really apologize, is that I see many people using photos of her daughter Catie and I decided to do this to stop using his daughter, if you are aware already found 5 girls who wore the daughter and she stopped using because I asked, even though I did wrong I have done something right, sorry about that

So… you’re just pretending to be me in order to protect my kid? Um, sorry, but NO. If you think someone is doing something unseemly with pictures of a stranger’s child, wouldn’t you, I don’t know, try to CONTACT the parent of the child whose pictures are being used illicitly? Maybe?

I took this screenshot & posted it on Flickr, and the person immediately contacted me and asked me to remove it. HELL NO, jackass. I responded and said that I would not be removing it because I wanted to warn the other parents I know to be on the lookout for this. Meanwhile, the profile appears to have been removed, so yay for that, I guess.

So, now I’m left with questions:
1. Why on earth would anyone have any interest in these pictures? It’s not as though they’re naked pictures of her that could be construed as p0rnographic. I don’t post anything like that. What’s the motivation for this? A quick search on Flickr shows that I am definitely not the only one having this problem. But why? What’s the purpose? Do I need to be worried that some Brazilian child sex ring is going to come to North Carolina looking for my daughter? (That’s what my mom thinks. She advised me to shut down my Flickr account AND my blog when she heard about this. And Mom, I love you, but no.)

2. What do I do now? I don’t want to set my Flickr account private, because then I won’t be able to use the pictures on my blog. How do I keep this from happening in the future? Do I stick a watermark on my photos? Would that even help? I mean, if they’re going to steal so blatantly, I doubt a watermark would be much of a deterrent.

3. How do I use my tiny little space on the Internet to try to make this stop? I doubt I can make huge websites like Flickr or Google listen to me. I’d love it if Flickr had some sort of option to block incoming links, so I could have an option that blocks anybody who’s clicking over from Orkut. But I doubt they’re going to make a major site design overhaul based on the complaints of a few people. So, what to do? I know some of y’all are way more clever than I am with this type of thing. If you have any ideas, please share them.

9 thoughts on “Hey, Orkut? You suck.

  1. Oh my goodness! That is so creepy isn’t it!?! I had never heard of Orkut before until recently. I have an Indian friend that is about as American as it gets. She told me about Orkut when her cousin in India invited her to join to keep in touch. When my friend joined, she found her husband had a profile on there and had been cheating on her. So, that is how I heard about Orkut.

    You are only the second person I have ever heard that has mentioned Orkut. Google does do it and I guess it is a legit site. But to have this junk with your daughter out there is SOOO unacceptable.

    You will love this one, a while back, I saw a story on like 20/20 or Dateline about Flickr and photo stealing. Apparently this is a big problem with Flickr. This American gal went to Czech Republic for vacation and while she was there, she saw a huge billboard advertisement there with… get this… HER FAMILY PICTURE on the billboard – even her kids!! Whatever company it was stole this picture off of Flickr and used it for their ad! How crazy is that!?! Needless to say, she was pissed and found it very disturbing.

    This is the dilemma I have with using Flickr for my blog. Everyone tells me to use Flickr, but I have heard of the photo stealing problems so many times, I have yet to brave using it.

    Sorry so long on the commenting! đŸ™‚

  2. Brandy – I know that blogger! Her name is Danielle, I met her at the Type-A Mom Conference back in September. This is the link to her version of the story.


    That one was CRAZY. So I guess I just need to be grateful that my kid isn’t on a storefront in Eastern Europe, but I’m still weirded out.

    Oh, and now I’m totally going to be checking to see if my husband has a profile on any of those sites! Hee. (Just kidding, hon.)

  3. Right now on your flickr site you have so people can download the pictures from your site there is a way to turn that off.’

    Go to Your Account and click on the “Privacy and Permision” tab. Under global settings there is the “Who can download your stuff” option set so it says “only you”. You can also make it for friends and family only if your family uses it to download photos of Catie.

    There are other settings you can play with like who leave comments or who can blog about certain images. Hopefully this helps!

  4. What Magda says. I don’t know how this works, but there’s a way to keep your pics from even being copied. There have been times when I’ve copied a friend’s flickr pic and when you paste it, it’s only a couple pixels big. Maybe that comes with the privacy settings for downloading? Good luck, this is horrid. I actually heard a news story about this recently, so there may be more info on the web on what you should do.

  5. Wow. Ok, thank you, Magda. I’m feeling VERY dumb for not already knowing that.

    The only problem now is that my mom will have to get a Flickr account so she can download pics of Catie to show off to her friends, but this whole thing freaked her out so much that I doubt she’ll object.

  6. God that is horrible and creepy to the max. The idea someone would use other people’s pictures, specifically CHILDREN for their own purposes is just wrong.

    I don’t think (and will pray I am wrong) there’s a sex ring coming for Catie. But your mom should know by now that you and Dave are protective enough over Catie, especially with her asthma, that this would not happen.

    I wish flickr would get the bfg and do something to stop this. It’s not just a scenery picture or a picture of someone’s animal. It’s family, friends, and more importantly children whose images are being taken. They need to do something over this.

  7. That is just so freaking horrible. Gah, I’m sorry they did that to you.

    It happens more often than I think we even know. I know of a ton of people who have had their pictures stolen and used elsewhere.

    Makes me remember why I don’t use photos online at all. Sigh.

  8. Blah. This makes my stomach hurt. I try not to think about the fact that my kids pictures come up in google images because I’ve decided to post them on my blog. I feel like I have no control. I likely wouldn’t even FIND someone using them this way.

    Hides head under pillow.

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