Awhile back I remember reading on Kelly’s Korner that some of her photos of her kids had been stolen. A stranger had taken those photos and posted them claiming they were her kids rather than Kelly’s. Kelly started watermarking all of her photos. I remember a few of you writing me about this issue and suggesting I watermark as well. I pretty much shrugged it off. Watermarking is ugly. It takes away from the pictures and unless you slap it across the whole thing, ruining the photo, then someone can just crop it out. So I didn’t do anything and just kept on blogging like normal. I figured Kelly has like 12,000 followers. I don’t even have 300. I highly doubted that anyone would want to steal pics of my kids right?!?!
I’m not really sure how it all happened but my blog has recently started to have a lot more readers. I’m not doing anything to get my name out there so I’m not sure where all these readers are coming from (It’s wonderful and I appreciate it! But it’s also kinda random)??? Due to the new readership, I’m getting a lot more emails. And it’s great! I’ve had someone host a giveaway, several people wanting Babywise and other mommy help, some offers for me to advertise for products and I even did an “expert” phone interview and got paid for it (what!what!). I also got an email recently from a reader that said someone they knew personally had stolen pictures of my children.
I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I looked the person up on Facebook and couldn’t see anything…I was super sick at the time and my brain couldn’t really process it. I got my trusty “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” to do some snoop work for me and this is what we found:
While her facebook page has been deleted (when the people who contacted me about it confronted her she deleted it) my internet mastermind was still able to find this. The girl who stole my pictures is Samantha Urban Picoli (no way of knowing if this is a real name or person or not?). Her profile picture was actually several pictures of ME and Kye as a baby. It looks like she was saying she’s me. And she was supposedly only 17 years old when she had Kye…I guess I can take that as a compliment as I was for sure not 17 at that time 😉
You can click on this to make it bigger
She used this picture and edited it to get Zach out of it, it’s the larger of the pictures you can see
While her facebook page was unvisitable, her Twitter is still up. You can see it for yourself here: https://twitter.com/samanthaurban1 I took screen shot images of what was posted which you can see below, again click to make them larger (yes, this is what my screen typically looks like…1,000 blogger pages up as I’m working on a post!).
She used this picture of Kye as her picture for her Twitter account. She claims he is her son and even says his name is Ryder. The whole thing is scary…but also semi-insulting. I mean I have HOW many pictures up of Kye? And THIS is the one she steals?!?! He looks crossed eyed in it!!!
With the info we gathered from the person who emailed me as well as from seeing what we could dig up on her, this person is obviously a teenage girl who wishes she had a baby. It’s ridiculous to me that all these teen mom shows are glamorizing teen pregnancy and making it so young girls are going as far as pretending to be teen moms!!! So, so sad.
It was EASY to shrug off the whole thing that happened to Kelly because I honestly believed it wouldn’t happen to me. And while I’m SO grateful to the person who contacted me and told me about this, I also wish I could have just gone in living in my fantasy world where only nice, honest people read my blog and where no one would do such a thing. I don’t really understand WHY people would steal my pictures, but it scares me now that it’s happened. What’s even worse is when you look at her Twitter it was from early 2011. So this has been going on for at least a year. Who knows how many other people have done this same thing?!?! Like Zach said, someone could be stealing our kids pictures and become obsessed with them and try to abduct them or something. You hate thinking about it, but it’s totally a possibility.
Thankfully, I was in the middle of Italy posts when I found out all of this (and I still am…a couple more Italy posts to come!) so I had some time to think about how to move forward. I attempted to report her but couldn’t figure out how. Since her Facebook page is no longer active, Facebook wouldn’t let me report the page (this is the Facebook url she had on her Twitter account if any of you know how to report it, please do: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002365432715) I also don’t have a Twitter so I don’t know how to report that.
I wasn’t sure what to do as far as the future of my blog is concerned. I refuse to go private. I’m not going to let one bad incident ruin something I love so much. I also refuse to watermark. One of the main reasons I blog is to make blog books and I don’t want some stinking watermark across every picture. No thanks!
I also debated about my Facebook account. I’m Facebook friends with many of my readers, but yet I don’t know them in person. Should I make a page for my blog and then unfriend anyone I don’t know in real life??? I know Kelly did this and I may have to as well, but I hate to lose out on the things I learn from my Facebook non-real life friends. I value those online friendships and feel they are valid, but at the same time they could be imposters gathering information on me and my family.
I asked Zach and he’s not overly concerned about it. It makes me uncomfortable and I want to protect my images, without changing my blog. I did some research and found two helpful things. One is on every picture I post I’m going to click on the “link” button at the top of the page. Blogger automatically creates a link for each picture you post allowing readers to make the image larger and save it. By clicking the link button for each picture it disables this function. It’s a little bit more work, but worthwhile. I will be trying to remember to do this for each picture of us or our kids. Random other pictures (like Italy landmarks) I’ll leave the “link” button enabled so people can steal them if they’d like. Also if I ever say “you can click and make it bigger” then it means it’s a picture I did not disable the link function on. I don’t think any of you probably make my pictures larger anyway?!?! So I’m hoping this isn’t an inconvience to any of my legit blog friends!
I also found a way to make it so people can’t right click on my images on the blog and save them. I highly recommend following the advice on this blog. It was SIMPLE and now if anyone attempts to right click on one of my pictures they get a message telling them to contact me directly for permission to use the photos. Zach and I are both inconvienced by having to do this. He likes to save pics from my blog onto his computer for work to show people the kids and I like to do it to get pics to use for other blog entries I write (much, much quicker and easier to find a blog entry with a picture I want than having to go through a bunch of photo files on my computer). But these annoyances are worth the safety.
I know…these two things do not COMPLETELY protect my pictures. I’m sure a bunch of you can tell me all kinds of ways that you could still steal my pics. Please refrain from telling me…I know it’s all possible but I feel that taking these measures still allows my blog to stay pretty much the same as it always has been while making it more difficult for people to steal them. It’s like an alarm at your house. Does it really make it so no one can break in and rob you? No…there are many, many ways around it. But most robbers would rather go to your neighbors house that doesn’t have an alarm than bother messing with yours. Same with this. The idea is I’m making it more difficult for someone to steal my images so they will hopefully just go to a different blog that doesn’t have such protective measures in place.
In addition to these changes I have also set all of my Picasa albums to private (not that ANYONE looked at them…but it’s just an easy fix to help protect those pics as well). I have it set where only people with the direct link to the album can view the images. I don’t use Picasa albums often, but they are handy when uploading pictures I took for other people (like of their kids birthdays and such).
I have been thinking about this for over a week now and have been debating how to move forward. I have decided that I need to weed out my Facebook friends. I’ve been too quick to accept friendship requests even when I don’t know the person requesting personally. I’ll accept based on our friends in common and I shouldn’t do that. I also will accept people assuming they are probably blog readers and I shouldn’t do that either. As I’ve learned, people could be posting pics of someone elses kids claiming them as their own. I don’t want to have to stop posting pictures on Facebook. I don’t want to have to start being careful with what I post (regarding our travel or other personal info) but after this incident I just don’t feel comfortable with my slack Facebook situation. I have MANY friend requests that I’ve just ignored and left in Facebook limbo as I don’t know them personally and I needed to make a decision on how to handle those requests. Both now and moving forword.
So I’ve created a Facebook Page for my blog. Zach and I talked about it and I feel like it’s the safest way to move forward without having to unfriend people. I know it’s just Facebook Land, but I HATE the idea of unfriending someone and hurting their feelings (not assuming I would hurt someone’s feelings but just in the odd chance I might!). Here is where you can find my Blog Facebook Page:
I plan for this page to be about the blog but also personal where my non-real life friends and I can still be in contact but where those friends cannot view my personal photos or know the personal status updates I may post on my regular Facebook profile. It’s going to be a pain to weed through my friends list, as I’ve never done it before. If you do not know me in real life please take the time to “like” my blog page so we don’t lose touch. I think this could also be a great avenue for a lot of the questions I’m getting through emails…posting your questions on this page will get a much quicker response from me. You can send a private message to the page or post on the wall 🙂 Any friend requests I get on facebook who I do not know personally I will be redirecting to that page 🙂 I’m doing a mass invite to the page of all of my Facebook friends so if you’re already my friend on Facebook you should have one or will soon!
It really makes me sad that I have to do this…I feel like those of you who read my blog are my friends and know me better than people who know me “in real life” do!!! I hate that this whole situation happened. I hate that there are always people out there who take good and wonderful things and turn them into something bad. Part of me just wants to ignore that this happened but I know I can’t. This one case may not be that big of a deal, but it could also be a warning for worse things to come so I need to act now. I would be devastated if anything ever happened to my children or family and even more so if it were from my blog and were preventable. I’m a big “better safe than sorry” type person so I feel like these protective measures are a way to easily help keep us safe!
If you have a blog, I urge you to look into ways to protect your images. There are MANY different ways out there to do it, these are just the routes I have chosen. If you have seen my images other places than my blog or Facebook page PLEASE CONTACT ME. Do not contact the person who has posted them. Please report them to whatever domain you saw them posted on and let me know about it before contacting them directly as, like the girl above, they can delete their page and make it difficult to report.
Also if you are interested in using my images, just contact me. I know awhile back someone wrote me and asked permission to feature Kye in a school curriculum on nutrition. Of course I said yes! I’m happy to share my images but there is a big difference in me granting permission and someone just taking them.
My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org (Yes, I know I need to become a grown-up and get a new email address, I will soon!)
I know some of you have been leery about this whole blog thing from Day 1 (Dad!). You’ve warned me about putting all of my personal information out there for the world to see. Sometimes we have to learn lessons on our own, and I have. But at the same time…there are SO SO many wonderful things that have come from blogging. While this negative thing is a bad thing, it doesn’t come close to outweighing the good. Sharing my personal experiences (even the ones that some people have said are “TMI”) has been helpful to some people, has allowed me to vent things and learn things about myself, and has created amazing friendships for me that surpass this blog or any other social networking site.
Moving forward I will continue to blog as I have been blogging. I will continue to be myself and post the same pictures I would normally post. I hope my protective measures help prevent other issues in the future and help some of you to protect your blogs and Facebook pages as well!!! I hope these changes do not affect any of my honest readers and friends and I hope my Facebook weeding out doesn’t cause any hurt feelings, hopefully this post explains the reasons why I’m doing what I am 🙂 Thank you to the 99.9% of you who just read my blog and don’t try to do anything shady. Let’s all agree to not let that 00.1% ruin this for the rest of us!!!
What tricks are you using to protect your blog??? I’d love to hear some other simple tips!!!