Nelson updated his Facebook profile with the cutest pic ever. The CUTEST. It was a little kid wearing an oversized sweater which had mistakenly gone through the dryer and no longer fit her dad. So dad had given the sweater to his daughter and it fit just right. She had the biggest grin. How’d I know all this? No, Nelson didn’t tell me. Nelson didn’t write about it either. In fact, I don’t know where in the world Nelson is. We’ve never met. But I know that kid. She’s MY daughter. And somewhere around the world, someone I’ve never met has been using her photo as his Facebook profile.
Creepy? I’ll say.
Disturbing? You bet.
So that’s how I found out. I woke up last week to a notification from Facebook alerting me someone may be using a profile picture which really doesn’t belong to them. They asked me to confirm it which I did. I had the option to block him which I did. Facebook said it would investigate.
Who was this guy?
I don’t know. The account had no friends and few posts. Just a couple of pictures and the one front and center was MY kid in the shrunken sweater.
It got me thinking about all those photos I’ve shared over the years. All those stories I’ve shared. On my dadmissions page I stopped posting most pics of my kids a few years ago. I don’t even use their names on my dadmissions page anymore. On my personal page I still share. But now I’m wondering what the cost is for all this interconnectivity we’ve all created. What is the unintended cost to my kids of my social media footprint that THEY never bargained for. We’ve all seen bogus accounts pop up with friend requests. This somehow felt different to me. Invasive. Probably because it affected MY family, and MY kid, who has never even been on Facebook.
Luckily, Facebook was very proactive and notified me about the photo. Or so I thought. Because I woke up this week to another alert from Facebook. This time someone named Williams was using the same pic. Same thing. New profile. Again I replied back to Facebook. Again they said they would investigate. Again: annoyed, disturbed, creeped out.
Sure maybe it’s just some automated account. Or maybe it’s some overseas scammer. Or maybe it’s someone who has NO place having any types of pictures of any children. It very unsettling.
So on a Saturday morning I sat down with a cup of coffee and one by one started to copy and then delete the memories I had been sharing on Dadmissions over the years. One pic. Then another.
And I couldn’t help but gulp back a tear, sad to be looking back through all these great memories I had shared, sad that I may have put my kids in this situation, sad that the world can’t always be trusted to get a glimpse into your life.
In each of the cases, Facebook has now replied to me that they looked at the profiles created and they “don’t” violate Facebook’s community rules. I don’t really know what that means. I’ve already blocked both accounts and reported them and I will continue to do so. And I’ll certainly think twice before posting public photos of my kids. Moreover, I’m going to look at my security settings on ALL my social media accounts to see where things might be tightened up to be more secure.
I hesitated to even write this. Sometimes it’s better to just ignore things and leave them alone. But sometimes there’s an important message other parents need to hear. This is the latter. Watch what you post online. Watch your security settings. Be vigilant about who has access to your life. Not everyone out there is a friend.
Below are a couple of good articles with tips on how to protect yourself online:
The 411 on online impersonation:
How can I stop online impersonation:
protecting your online photos: