12 April 2013

Wrong picture? Wrong name?

Mismatch errors between social profiles and contact records - how things go wrong with contact synchronisation across networks

Contents:


1 What goes wrong
2 How it happens
3 Common scenarios and how to fix them
4 Watch this space


What goes wrong

More people are connected over the net than ever before, and they want all their contacts available from everywhere, and kept up to date. So some service providers - Outlook.com being one example - now offer the option to search social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr etc, and pull contact information from those sites into your address book.

But the searches aren't perfect, and on some sites, people can (and do!) make errors in the e-mail address they use to set up their account. The result is that people can be linked to the Profile of a complete stranger, and when their friends pull that Profile data in from the social network, they will receive and store bad data in their address books. Although no outgoing email message can send profile information beyond a name and email address, the receiving account will match the email address on an incoming message to the stored name and photo in its address book and display it - right or wrong!


How it happens

Several social networks and services offer the ability to set up a public profile, including personal information and a photo. As networking increases, more people have multiple accounts with multiple services. There is now demand from users to sync all the information from all their social contacts together in one place - usually the on-line address book linked to their email account or their “People” app, when contacts are managed on a standalone basis..

Outlook (2010 onwards) has long had the ability to integrate users' contact lists with profiles from Facebook using a plug-in. But now Outlook.com - which incorporates Hotmail and Windows Live users as well - has this feature built in for both Facebook and Twitter and is publicising it. So take-up appears to be increasing.

Some cloud syncing services used on popular mobile devices are also offering linkages with social networks. There are numerous apps available for social linking.

Gmail users have a similar feature by default, linked to Google's own social network, Google+. Gmailers who have Google+ members listed in their Contacts will automatically see the public profile information and photo for a Google+ member in that person's contact record and alongside emails received from him.

The connection between an email contact and a public profile on a social network is made by using look-up features built into the social network to match registered email addresses with email addresses stored in people's address books.

Provided that the email addresses registered by social network members are correct, the system should work well. But if they are not, then people will find complete strangers linked to contact information in their email account address book and similar bizarre anomalies.

The Google+ system is pretty foolproof. In order to use a Google+ account and have a Google+ profile you first need to have a Google account. And in order to create or amend that Google+ profile, you must be signed in to the relevant Google account with the correct username and password. So, barring user error or account compromise, the details and photo in a Google account profile should remain correctly linked to the real owner of the email address used as its ID.

This is not the case with other social networks. For example, people can sign up to Facebook using any email address. Facebook will send an email to that address, but do not enforce verification. If the email is ignored, then the new account user is not restricted, and can use his account. Consequently it is possible for there to be glaring errors in the IDs of Facebook members when email addresses are looked up and profile information and photos synced with an email address book.


Common scenarios and how to fix them


Some people I email to are sent my Facebook profile photo! How dare Gmail invade my privacy like that?

Solution: Gmail doesn't "send" any photo out with your messages. The photo people see when they receive your message is the photo they have stored for you in their own contact list. If your recipients use any Microsoft email service, or a third party app for syncing social networks, they have probably synced their own contact lists with Facebook.

Therefore when they receive mail from you, the picture they have for you in their contacts is your Facebook picture, and that will appear beside your email when it arrives in their account. You have no control over that. The best you can do is go into your Facebook account and amend your privacy settings - you cannot opt out of the “look-up” service completely, but you can restrict who is allowed to do look-ups to your Friends only.

You could also investigate removing your Gmail address completely from your Facebook account, and substituting another - see their Help Page here:
http://goo.gl/YlZ6V

Some people I send mail to see a complete stranger's photo on my messages!

Solution: if your recipients use any Microsoft email service, or a third party app for syncing social networks, they have probably synced their own contact lists with Facebook - or perhaps another service which does not enforce verification. If someone signed up to Facebook using your Gmail address, their profile photo - and perhaps their name as well - has been matched to your address in your recipient's address book - so that’s the info your contact will see for you. And yes, it is perfectly possible for someone to sign up to Facebook using your Gmail address - it happens regularly, because Facebook does not verify user email addresses. You can contact Facebook to try to have the error corrected, but they may not act or respond. This could also happen with other social networks which do not verify registered email addresses.

People I send messages to see my wife's (friend's/partner's/sister's) name and Google+ photo on my mail!

Solution: your wife has amended or created "her" profile without realising she was signed into your account. Sign in to your account yourself and edit your profile to remove her details. And for the future, don't leave your own account signed on on a shared computer.

I set up a Gmail account for my friend, and now my YouTube account has his name and his photo on it!

Solution: Did you sign out of the non-Gmail Google account you use for YouTube FIRST? If not, then you have added his Gmail account to your own Google account and his details have become part of your account. To correct that, you will need to delete the Gmail account from your Google account. Your friend will need to start over with a different username, as his original one - though now deleted - is permanently linked as an "other username" to your Google account.

I said my room-mate could use my Hotmail address as his recovery address for his new Gmail account. Now my Gmail-user contacts see his picture!

Solution: Your room-mate added your Hotmail address to his account as an alternate address instead of a recovery address, and you verified the address without quite realising what the verification was for. An alternate address is an alternative ID for his account. So any Gmail user who has your Hotmail address in their contacts will now see your room-mate's Google profile linked to the Hotmail address. To correct that, tell him to remove your Hotmail address as an alternate ID on his account, and add it as a simple recovery address instead.

There is a complete stranger's picture showing on all my messages and my own contact entry

Solution: Not so much a solution in itself, but a initial path to finding a solution, is to drag that picture or cut and paste it into the Google Image Search search bar. That will pull up all web occurrences of the picture, so you can see which sites it is being used by. Once you know whether the photo is on Google+ or Facebook or some other site, it can be easier to track down how it has become connected to your email address.

When I posts comments on some blogs, the wrong picture comes up against my name - it's an old one I haven't used for ages

Solution: Did you ever set up a Gravatar account? If so, those websites - for example, Wordpress blogs - that can make use of it will pull the information and the photo from your Gravatar account, not from your Google account. So change the photo on your Gravatar account to the one you prefer to use.

Some of my contacts' names have been changed and are no longer their real names, but some kind of nickname or "handle", and their pictures seem different as well!

This has come about because some users have taken advantage of a change offered to a selection of people who operate YouTube Channels linked to their Google Profiles.

Ever since Google+ started, some users have wanted to use their well-established internet nicknames, by which they are widely known, rather than their real names. Now, some YouTube users who have linked their YouTube Channels to their Google+ Profiles - it's not a requirement, but many people choose to do that - have been offered the choice of using their YouTube Channel name as an alternative to their real name on those Profiles.

That means that their YouTube Channel name is now their master name across all Google products and services, and has replaced their real names on their Profiles.

So, if one of your Contacts is a YouTube Channel user, and has decided to change his Profile to reflect his YouTube name, he will now show in your Contacts list by that name instead of his real name. If he has changed his picture as well, then that new picture will also show up in your Contacts list.

Solution: Unfortunately for those who don't like these changes in their Contacts list, there isn't a way around it. Every email user everywhere can choose the name he wants other people to see when he sends email to them. Similarly, every Google user who creates a Profile chooses what he wants people to see as his name and picture. Other Gmail users have no control over this at all - if the email address linked to the Google Profile in question is in their Contacts, it will reflect the updated information.

So if you suddenly find that a glamorous-looking diva called Miss Purple has arrived in your Contact list where you used to have Mary Brown and a nice picture of her tabby cat, then that's Mary's choice and you have no real option but to respect that choice.

I clicked something on YouTube and now the name and picture on my emails has changed to my YouTube profile!

On the other side of the coin, if you are a YouTube user and you chose to take up this opportunity, you might not have realised that it would change your name and picture right across your entire Google account and all the products you use with it, including your Gmail account. You can, of course, change the name that goes out on your Gmail messages independently of your Profile, and also have a special Gmail picture, but your Contact hovercard will still reflect your Profile contents, which may have you thoroughly dismayed!

Solution: You can change back to your previous real name on your Profile by FIRST disconnecting your Google+ Profile from your YouTube Channel. Then go to your Profile and edit the name back to your correct real name - and change the picture back too, if you wish. That will restore your real name and picture to all your other Google products and services. If you then want to re-link your YouTube Channel to your newly edited Profile, and use your real name in YouTube, then you can.

You can do this by following the instructions in this link: http://support.google.com/youtube/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2657858.


Watch this space

There are many ways this baffling phenomenon can show up. All cause confusion and distrust among users, which is usually directed towards their own service provider rather than the true culprit. But it’s a given that until all social networks enforce verification of the email addresses people use to sign up for accounts, the problems caused by identity mismatching are likely to increase in number.

As more scenarios emerge, they will be added here, in the hope of providing an explanation and a route to a fix.

23 comments:

  1. I still do not understand why people recive messages from me with strange picture. I unlinked all third-party sites (burn in hell Gravatar), deleted and created many avatars on Google +a\c and sh-t, but I still cant find solution

    ReplyDelete
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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
  2. See the second scenario above. Many people sync their own contacts with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. The picture they see could be coming from any of those.

    If you continue to have problems, bring your question to the Gmail Help Forum.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is a HUGE screwup for Outlook and/or Facebook. The other day I sent an email from my Gmail account to my Hotmail account. When I opened it in Hotmail (now Outlook.com) I saw that my Facebook profile picture was on the email. I never syncronized my Hotmail, Gmail or Facebook accounts and I certainly don´t want my FB profile picture to appear in the business emails I send from Gmail to my work related contacts. This is a HUGE breach of privacy and I´m considering shutting down my Facebook account (I hardly open it anymore) and closing down my Hotmail (now crappy Outlook.com) account. I´m going to set the account to forward the received mail to my Gmail account and start contacting everybody from that address alone.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Agreed, F. Especially as it seems that since I wrote this article, the Contact sync between all Microsoft webmail accounts and Facebook is now on by default, and the Facebook profile is being treated as some kind of master. Given that every Facebook profile is suspect because of no email verification, that is a crass move which is going to cause massive problems.

    There are remedies - you can moderate the scope of the Facebook look-up as described above (although it's scandalous that you can't opt right out!), and you can - if you can find the setting - turn it off in the Microsoft account.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I disagree with the information re: the first question listed (regarding Facebook pictures showing up in sent messages). I recently had this happen when I sent an e-mail from my Gmail account to a Hotmail user. The person with the Hotmail account replied and asked about the picture I had attached - well, I didn't attach a picture! So I asked for more details. He said, "Well the picture disappears when I go to reply to you so this is from memory. It also appears on the right side of my screen with something about Facebook. I'm not on Facebook, but it appears you might be." He then described my Facebook profile picture in detail. He obviously has not "synced his contacts list with Facebook" because he does not have a Facebook account! I agree with the person who commented, "I certainly don´t want my FB profile picture to appear in the business emails I send from Gmail to my work related contacts." I'm not stupid enough to have an inappropriate Facebook profile picture, but I also don't want to send work-related e-mails along with a picture of me kissing my boyfriend on the cheek. Really frustrating.

    Also, this is an extraordinarily unhelpful suggestion: "The best you can do is go into your Facebook account and amend your privacy settings - you cannot opt out of the 'look-up' service completely, but you can restrict who is allowed to do look-ups to your Friends only." I *want* people to be able to look me up on Facebook - I've had unknown family members and long-lost friends find me that way. That's not a solution at all! I am not sure the person who wrote about this issue truly understands what is going on.

    ReplyDelete
  6. D-Red,

    If you disagree to what CWD has posted here, then what is your take on it? Please post yours.

    WRT " I recently had this happen when I sent an e-mail from my Gmail account to a Hotmail user. The person with the Hotmail account replied and asked about the picture I had attached - well, I didn't attach a picture!" - corresponds exactly to what I find written under the first section. "Gmail doesn't "send" any photo out with your messages. The photo people see when they receive your message is the photo they have stored for you in their own contact list. If your recipients use any Microsoft email service, or a third party app for syncing social networks, they have probably synced their own contact lists with Facebook. "

    WRT "He then described my Facebook profile picture in detail. He obviously has not "synced his contacts list with Facebook" because he does not have a Facebook account! " - He doesn't require to use a facebook account. I do not have a Facebook account and I use a Hotmail account and whenever I open mails from other contacts who does, their facebook profile picture is displayed.

    WRT ""I certainly don´t want my FB profile picture to appear in the business emails I send from Gmail to my work related contacts." I'm not stupid enough to have an inappropriate Facebook profile picture, but I also don't want to send work-related e-mails along with a picture of me kissing my boyfriend on the cheek. Really frustrating." - I agree! And your anger should be directed towards Facebook and Hotmail for cooking up this fiasco instead of directing it towards CWD who is most certainly not at fault. From what I have learnt, there are two things you can do:
    1. Change your profile picture.
    2. Change the account used with that Facebook profile.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Som -

      Thank you so much for your support and confirmation of the Facebook/Outlook/Hotmail situation - but as it happens D-Red brought her problem to the Gmail Forum, and a little further research convinced her of the role being played by Gmail in this disclosure of her Facebook profile to other contacts - i.e. zero!

      At least D-Red was fortunate in that her true identity was being revealed without her knowledge or permission by Facebook. Many Gmail users are unlucky enough to be the victims of forgetful or malicious people who have signed up to Facebook using the wrong Gmail address. These poor souls have their Gmail messages paired up in Hotmail users' accounts with the profile of someone else entirely!

      Delete
    2. WRT "At least D-Red was fortunate in that her true identity was being revealed without her knowledge or permission by Facebook. Many Gmail users are unlucky enough to be the victims of forgetful or malicious people who have signed up to Facebook using the wrong Gmail address. These poor souls have their Gmail messages paired up in Hotmail users' accounts with the profile of someone else entirely!"

      Couldn't agree more.

      Delete
  7. Hey

    Thank you. Your blog was very helpful and efficient For Me,Thanks for Sharing the information.

    Visit:- Hotmail Support Call 1-888-897-5899 (Toll Free)

    Thanks
    Eva

    ReplyDelete
  8. I've noticed a very odd problem with my profile picture when I send gmail, but the strange thing is that it only seems to happen if the recipient has hotmal (or a similar microsoft service such as outlook.com).What I see is that the profile picture is selected from one of my friends, but I'm unsure as to where it is puling this picture. I've even tried deleting that picture from my account.What I would like to know is how I can properly set the actual profile picture, and ensure that that setting shows up even on hotmail receipients.
    What should i do to repair it?????

    ReplyDelete
  9. If only your Hotmail or Outlook contacts see this picture of your friend, then that's probably because your friend signed up to Facebook using your Gmail address, and your Hotmail and Outlook contacts have had their contacts forcibly synced to Facebook. So when they get - or send - an email from or to you they will see your friend's picture.

    Read the blog post above for more explanation

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have two email accounts, one for Yahoo and one for Gmail. For whatever reason, whenever I send my an email from my Yahoo account to anybody's Gmail account, the wrong picture shows up as me to the Gmail user. I don't even have a Yahoo profile photo. Can you please explain. This is very, very troubling.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great post!!! In really had a great time reading it!!! It was really informative, thanks for sharing!! For More Information About Customer Care Related issues visit this website Hotmail Technical Support and Call +1-800-296-4296 USA (Toll Free).

    ReplyDelete
  12. I recently changed my google account username. But the people who send me emails can still see my old username. Has the new name not been updated in their accounts? How to fix this?

    ReplyDelete
  13. With over 400 million Gmail users out there, it can take a while for your Profile changes to propagate to every user in the service - but even then, if your contacts have over-ridden your choice of name with their own, your Profile name may not be on mail you receive from them.

    Many users resent that other users can choose for themselves the name whey want to show to the world and will resolutely change back any change you make yourself....!

    ReplyDelete
  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  15. If someone sent me an email before i had changed my username.. will the changes be effective there as well? Will the old emails now show my new username? is there any way to make this happen?

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  16. No - existing messages in your account will continue be displayed as they were received, as they will reflect the information in the message headers.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Good Post. really It takes such plenty time to push and notice traffic from social media, the matter is it never consistent. we have a tendency to should take under consideration Organic searches whereas victimization social nameand getting links from good social networks like Google and can not merely offer some traffic but collectively good links to diary.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I use Gmail for the UI on several accounts. When I send and receive emails from my work address chris @@@@@.com the account name that appears when you mouse over my email is not my Name but the words "Edible Garden Tour" about 6 years ago I helped a non-profit named Edible Garden Tour but never with this email address. How can I change the name that I and all my clients see back to my name. I have scoured every available field I can think of to make sure Edible Garden Tour does not show up. Any advice?

    ReplyDelete
  19. For specific problem solving, please use the Gmail Help Forum:

    https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!categories/gmail

    ReplyDelete
  20. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete