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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Catfishing and How to Google an Image

Categories: General, How To

Apologies for my longish absence ... we are in the middle of a house/office move and tasks like blogging have been put on the long finger for a coupe of weeks! But I am back with a piece about a lovely, fake Facebook invitation I received recently. Anybody who has ever watched the MTV programme "Catfish" will know all about these, and thanks to the show I knew how to test if the profile was real within a few quick clicks.

Yes, I have to admit that even though I call myself somewhat of a techie, I actually didn't realise that you can search for an image on Google just the same way you can search for a keyword or phrase. Until I watched "Catfish" that is. 

Catfish is an MTV reality show which helps people figure out whether the  person they are involved with romantically online but have never actually met in "real" life really is who they claim to be. According to Wikipedia "On the internet, a "catfish" is a person who creates fake personal profiles on social media sites—pretending to be someone more outwardly appealing than his/her true self, by using someone else's pictures and false biographical information. These "catfish" usually intend to trick an unsuspecting person or persons into falling in love with them. The term "catfish" is derived from the title of a 2010 documentary film, in which filmmaker Nev Schulman discovers that the 20-something woman he'd been carrying on an online relationship with had not been honest in describing herself."

Unfortunately, in probably 90% of the episodes the reality is incredibly far removed from the truth and one show after another features a rather disappointed and often severely shocked victim of catfishing. I have been pretty intrigued by this programme, not so much to see whether the online romance will end up in tears (as it most likely will anyway) or not but rather by the ease with which the Catfish production team are usually able to trace the real persons behind the fake profiles.


Why am I bringing this all up? Well, as the title says, it always starts with the googling of images which I previously didn't realise could be done and which I have made use of on many occasions since. But my first go was when I received the message on the left in my Facebook inbox.

This lead me to the suspect Facebook profile ... very reminiscent of the types of profiles that many of the Catfish participants would have been contacted by. A few too many posed images. Not much personal chit chat but plenty of external links. An very little interaction with anybody else. 

Anyway, off I went to check out whether the profile image or any of the other photos on the website could be found anywhere else. To do that, I needed to switch the Google search screen over to Google Images. 

Simply click on "Images" in the top right corner of the Google page:

This will bring up the correct search screen. 

From here it's simple: Either drag an image into the search box or click on the camera symbol to give you the option to upload a photo from your computer or enter the URL (web address) of an image on a website. Click the search button and Google will go off trawling the Internet, trying to find either the same or very similar images for you. In my case, I quickly came across plenty of entries showing that my dear new wannabe friend Clinton robbed photos of a male model from Karachi to build his profile (if it is actually a "him"). So much for that.

But the usefulness of Google Image Search is of course not restricted to unmasking a potential catfish! I have since leaned on this facility on many occasions for more work related tasks. For example, a client's staff member recently spent a considerable amount of time finding stock photos to use on a new website but forgot to take note of any reference numbers which made sourcing them for purchase rather difficult. However, as he had taken screen shots of each image, I was able to run them through Google Images and could located them with much less time and effort spent than if I'd had to trawl through pages of stock photo catalogues, hoping to come up with possible search terms that might lead us back to the originals. 

Another time, I was working on developing a new website for a client who wished to use an image on their new site that was previously incorporated into a much larger, complex header graphic on their old site. But without access to the original files that made up the more complex image it was nearly impossible to lift out a good copy of the desired element. I did my best with the graphics programmes I have, then dropped this cut out into Google Images and voila! a perfect original came up on screen for me that I was able to purchase from a stock graphics website I had never heard of before! Thank you very much.

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