SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) - Two hundred fifty million photos are uploaded each day to Facebook, that's roughly 3,000 pictures each second. That doesn't include other sites, from Instagram to Pinterest. Your photos can sometimes take on a life of their own, if you're not careful before you upload them to the Internet.
Like most, Jay Breen posts snapshots of his life on Facebook.
"If I'm doing something interesting or fun, like traveling, traveling to other countries or you know, to an island," Breen says of his photos.
But when a friend mentioned seeing those photos on a scandalous dating web site, Breen was stunned. He logged on, and sure enough, the site where he found his photos was not where he had posted.
"Up comes pictures of myself, three pictures, that I posted on Facebook when I first signed up a while ago. This particular web site is something I didn't want to be associated with," explained Breen.
With hundreds of millions of photos being uploaded daily to popular social media sites, experts warn that even the most savvy Internet users are seeing their pictures and other personal media hijacked, copied and shared without their consent.
Even scarier, reports are popping up around the world of stolen photos appearing in political attack ads, online scams, and even on foreign billboards.
Attorney Doug Isenberg likens it to digital shoplifting. Still, you're the owner of photos you have taken.
"Anything that you or I can create, as long as it is an original work of authorship, is protected under U.S. Copyright Law," said Isenberg. "It can include photographs, video, audio."
What can you do if you discover you're a victim?
First, try contacting the site owner or content creator directly, as Breen did. He wrote an email, "and said this is becoming more serious, PLEASE REMOVE IT, in capital letters -- before I get, you know, an attorney involved," he said.
Isenberg said you could send a cease and desist letter, citing violations of the U.S. Copyright Act, "and certainly in an extreme case you can file a complaint in court for copyright infringement."
A simpler option would be to take preventative steps like putting a visible watermark over things like photos and video.
Experts say the best, preventative, precaution is to change your privacy settings to be sure that only friends and family can see those photos. Of course, they can still copy and save them to be used in other places, but at least you cut back on the number of people who have access to them.