Australian comedian and writer David Green often gets phone calls from friends who say they’ve just spotted him on television. But he was shocked when he got a call saying his image was displayed on the Optus website.
A copy of Green’s licence — his full name, date of birth and photo visible, but with the licence number and address blacked out — was being used by the Australian telecommunications giant as an example ID.
His friend Tim spotted it while he was switching phone providers to Optus, and rang Green to let him know.
“He was signing up online and you need to confirm your ID. There are a couple of different options, and one is to put your driver licence info in,” Green told BuzzFeed News. “When you select that, my licence comes up as an example.”
The next morning, Green tweeted about it.
He tagged the company, telling them that they were using a picture of his licence without his permission, and asked for some money for its use.
Soon after, Green started to receive responses from Twitter users criticising Optus for a breach of privacy and complimenting his headshot (which, yeah, is a pretty nice photo as licences go).
Green told BuzzFeed News that he suspected that the company had found an image of his licence that he’d posted to his blog while documenting his move to Melbourne nearly a decade ago.
“That’s my old South Australian licence,” he said. “I had to give it up in 2011 because I was moving to Victoria and I’d bought a car and I needed to transfer my licence. So I took a scan and posted it to my blog.”
An Optus spokesperson confirmed the image was taken from Green’s blog, but did not explain why the company had used somebody’s old licence without permission instead of a mock-up.
The spokesperson said Optus has removed the image and apologised to Green.
“While the photo of Mr Green’s licence was publicly available on his blog, Optus acknowledges it did not seek permission to reproduce the image,” they said.
Later, Green was called by an Optus representative who told him his licence was only visible to people visiting the website on mobile devices, and that the company is investigating what happened and how long his licence was on the website.
Green acknowledges he uploaded the image himself but didn’t authorise it for reuse, and said a company using it as part of its business is different to posting it to a personal blog.
“You can find the image on Google Images, but not at the top. It’s way down,” he said. “I’d blacked out my address and ID number. I bet someone saw it and thought, It’s less photoshop work we need to do, and just took it without asking.”
“It seems kind of weird. Why couldn’t they use a dummy one that says John Citizen? How lazy is it that they would grab it? Maybe they just saw my face and thought I was good enough.”
Green told BuzzFeed News he wasn’t serious about wanting money for the licence — but, as an Optus customer, wouldn’t mind a few months of free internet.