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Orkut: The new danger

14 February 2007

Orkut, the online portal, owned by Google finds itself at the centre of debate. A nineteen-year-old student has been accused of making a fake account of a girl. Can we prevent the misuse of this technology by not posting our numbers and pictures?

ABHISHEK NEVER IMAGINED that the prank he played on his classmate would land him in jail. Abhishek, a management student and still in his teens, was arrested by the Thane police following a girl’s complaint about tarnishing her image in the public forum - Orkut. The report after being published in Mumbai Mirror has created a stir among the Orkutians and opened up a whole new box of debate.

The incident

Abhishek had created a fake account in the name of the girl with her mobile number posted on the profile. The profile has been sketched in such a way that it draws lewd comments from many who visit her profile. The Thane Cyber Cell tracked down Abhishek from the false e-mail id that he made to open up the account.

The question

In this case, the girl has not posted her picture or mobile number in the fake profile. A brief search in the Orkut profile will reveal many such profiles with pictures of beautiful girls. My guess is that many of these girls are not even aware of the fact that their profile exists. These are created by some other people. I will term this as “rape of the image”. Now the question is “Can we really prevent this rape?”

The debate

The Mumbai Mirror’s report on the issue came with tips to the Orkut users. Police Sub-Inspector Ravindra Chauhan has been quoted as saying, “Orkut users should not put up their photographs on the site. They should not reveal personal information in their profile. Also no cellphone numbers or identity should be mentioned in the scrap book, as it is open to all.” But whether this really can be a way out, is debatable. “What about the hundreds of CVs I send to the unknown agencies everyday? They even contain my mobile number”, says Aditi, a DU student and a hardcore Orkut addict. She does have a point.

The truth is that in today’s world mobile numbers are far from being personal information. The proof lies in the numerous sales calls that we receive from credit card agents. On the issue of the photograph, Aditi says, “When Orkut gives an opportunity to show your face to the whole world, then why not?” When asked about the risks involved, she replied, “Who cares?” But everyone is not as carefree as Aditi. A brief search in Orkut once more will reveal profiles that have pictures of film stars, flowers, animals, sceneries and not the face of the owner. “I will never put my picture on Orkut profile,” says Mansi, whose profile in Orkut carries the picture of Aishwarya Rai. “It’s not safe, anybody and everybody can save it on their computer and can misuse it.” But here again the question lies - can we really prevent it? What happens to the hundreds of passport photographs we send with the application forms all our life? Any of them can be scanned and put up without our notice. Are we sure that all copies of the digital pictures taken at our local photography shop are deleted after we leave? “I don’t know, but there is no harm in being careful,” says Mansi.

So perhaps even in this age of globalisation and technical advancements we will hold ourselves from showing our face to the entire world for we never know who is misusing it in what way. And as the lawmakers say “We cannot do anything, until a complaint is lodged”.

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