This woman's story has several life lessons


01 Aug 2018

She didn't read before signing.Now she's lost privacy AND profits

Six years ago, South African author Shubnum unexpectedly found her face in an immigration ad in a Canadian newspaper.

She was surprised, but didn't take it very seriously.

Soon, she started seeing herself in various places, mostly ads, of dating sites, dentists, management courses, real estate and more.

All this happened because she made one simple mistake: she didn't read what she signed.


Her friend alerted her to her image's presence

Her friend alerted her to her image's presence

Shubnum's nightmare began when a Canadian friend posted a picture of an immigration ad to her Facebook page, saying it looked like her.

Others soon responded. Many said it was definitely her.

"I didn't mind being in immigration ads but I was very confused" about how it got there, she tweeted.

Then a friend stepped in: "Hey, didn't we do a photo shoot some years ago?"


The '100 Faces Shoot' was a free offer for everyone

She then recalled: two years ago, then 24-year-old Shubnum and some Durban friends went to a free photo shoot called the '100 Faces Shoot.'

The photographer promised them professional portraits for free if they got clicked.

"I thought the picture would be used for his portfolio, or an art project," recalls Shubnum.

It was quick: she signed a paper, the photographer said smile, click, and done.

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Initially, it was just the money factor for her

Initially, it was just the money factor for her

The 2012 discovery was just the start, and a nice one. "I thought it was funny," Shubnum says, "but I never got any money for this."

However, that soon became a smaller concern when she did a reverse Google search, through which one can find images similar to the subject.

"I've seen more than 50 (versions)," she told BBC, and not all were pleasant.


'Selling carpets, leading treks, or looking for love!'

Shubnum found her photos in various fake testimonials. "I never knew you could use stock images with false testimonials and fake names."

In a beauty product ad, she was a post-pregnancy melasma patient, where her blemishes had been edited out.

She was "selling carpets in NYC, leading treks in Cambodia, or looking for love" on a French dating site.

She was on book and magazine covers too!

These are what shocked her the most


After some pleading, the photographer agreed to help her

After some pleading, the photographer agreed to help her

Shubnum had contacted the photographer when she discovered her images. He explained she had signed away her rights to the photos.

"We didn't read the small print.I know. It was stupid."

But when it got too serious for her, she appealed to him for help again, and he agreed to remove her photos from his site.

Photos online didn't disappear, but lessened, she says.


Shubnum has several lessons for us

Shubnum says she has learnt her lessons. For one, the financial loss. The photographer kept selling them and "we haven't made a cent for all the things WE'VE advertized."

"Also this could have gone badly - my photo could have come up in a wrong place (the right to 'distort photo and character!')."

Importantly, exploitation of the masses. "Those testimonials are fake, those adverts are fake."


Amid the crisis, there have been some moments of fun

Amid the crisis, there have been some moments of fun

There have been some high (and amusing) points. One person tweeted to her, "You made me buy some Management course material. It was your testimonial that I read. Just to let you know, I am a good Management professional now, well placed and earning well."

But she now warns people about signing anything randomly. "Basically, I gave away my face for free."

Shubnum signs off

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