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Facebook Sides With Identity Thieves

Facebook Sides With Identity Thieves

by P. H. MadoreNovember 13, 2015

Open teaching is the idea that people have the right to learn regardless of their ability or circumstance. The diversity of the people they interact with makes for a much larger attack surface, with a huge range of connections on Facebook and elsewhere. But here we’ll focus on Facebook and some recent incidences.

Readers may not be aware, but Facebook has a rigorous process for dealing with the authenticity of account usage. If your account is hacked, there are ways to get it back regardless if you remember your password or the hacker continually manages to get back in. Facebook grants itself wide latitude in these matters, which could be wise in that they’ll never be sure how the next breach might arrive.

In the case of open teachers, who build trust with the people they’re teaching and often become very important in the narrative of their lives, such a process could prove vital if an attacker decided to use the trust built between teacher and student for financial gain. A fake donation campaign for a fake illness, or a request that bill payments be sent somewhere new. Two well-known open teachers, Alan Levine and Alec Couros, were compromised in just such a way.

In the case of Couros, somewhat an open teacher celebrity, his photos were used in numerous scams outside of Facebook for years. The typical Catfish-for-gain scenarios were conducted by lonely women all over the world. But then it took a much creepier twist: both Alan and Alec have been kicked off Facebook for supposedly using other people’s photos of themselves. Despite going through the process of submitting their identification more than once, the legitimate owners of the images are not allowed on Facebook at present because the scammers are using their photographs.

The irony here is that Facebook has the ability to identify your face in many cases, even when you’re not looking at the camera lens. The company is able to identify people who may not even have Facebook accounts. Anyone who’s ever had a photo of them on Facebook, inadvertently even, in a friend’s album, gets a “shadow profile” created for them. Over time, other sightings of this face are added to the profile, and gradually it becomes clearer who each face belongs to. Nevertheless, in the case of these two open teachers, Facebook has chosen to side with the scammers, considering their accounts to be the legitimate ones.

In the future it seems there will be no hiding from the Internet. Future generations will not remember a time when there were people whose photos you couldn’t find by typing their name into a little box on a screen. For better or worse.

Featured image from Denys Prykhodov / Shutterstock.

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  • Thanks for spreading the news on this. To clarify, we were not kicked off of facebook for using other people’s photos, the scammers took revenge on our being public by reporting our profiles as “impersonating someone else” through the Facebook process (which has many flaws).

    They ask for emailed scans of “government-issued IDs” with promises they will destroy them. Ha.

    Alec did get his account restored when it happened to him; after 7 days, and submitting thee IDs twice, the second time a photo of me holding said ID (I blur out my passport number and drivers license number) — I have not heard anything.

    While people call this “identity theft” our IDs are not stolen, people can still search our names, reverse image search the photos and find out who we are via our blogs, online presences. We are not the victims as much as the people who are scammed into sending money.

    One round of dealing with someone called “Timothy Boostrom” is detailed at

    While my account has been in limbo for 7 days, “Timothy” was able to post a new one within 3 hours of me having gotten his other one removed.

    • P. H. Madore

      I will get this story updated very soon. Thanks for clarifying.

  • Reena

    my account was hacked ..then i how can find the hacker