Photo taken by the webcam as part of the account creation process repeatedly uploaded to Gmail as icon.

Bug #1066108 reported by amber
This bug affects 1 person
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
pidgin (Ubuntu)

Bug Description

Hello, thank you for reading.

This bug is kind of high-level, and it took me a while to even connect it to Ubuntu. (Initially I thought this was Gmail's problem, but that seems unlikely now.) Here's what happened:

I recently got a new laptop. (Yay!) It's a ZaReason 430 UltraLap. It was shipped with Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS. When setting up my account, it offered to take a photo with the webcam and make that my login profile picture. I consented. I wanted to see the camera work. The photo is goofy, and not particularly flattering. I would never have put it anywhere for anyone else to see.

About a week ago I noticed that Gmail was now using this photo for my icon attached to all my mail! I certainly didn't authorize that. I would not even have agreed to it if offered. I've been using Firefox 16.0, in case that matters.

I found a file containing the image on my hard drive. (It was called /home/amber/.face) I removed it. I also did a find for jpegs, but didn't find anything else (but note that this would not have located the file called .face, either -- finding that was dumb luck.). I uploaded a different photo to my Gmail profile, copied a new photo to .face, and associated a new photo with my Ubuntu account.

Next time I looked the ugly photo was back. I have now removed it 10 or more times to no avail, and I have cleared all my cache and cookies, too. It always appears to go away for a time, and then reappears. After a while I decided it only reappeared after suspending and unsuspending my laptop (which also includes starting and restarting the wifi. I don't know if simply starting and restarting the wifi by itself triggers it).

Finally, I deleted the photo from Gmail, cleared the cache and cookies, closed Firefox, created a new account on my laptop, opened that, and opened Gmail on Firefox. That was nearly 24 hours ago, which is the longest I've been without the problem since I first noticed it. I have suspended and unsuspended 2 or 3 times, and the photo has not returned, so I now know that somehow this photo is being restored to Gmail from somewhere in my original Ubuntu account.

I find this incident absolutely egregious, as I feel that my privacy was violated. What a relief that the photo was merely ugly, and not obscene!

I'd be very grateful if someone would help me figure out how this is happening, and where the file is being stored.

Please let me know if any other details would help.


Revision history for this message
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tags: added: bot-comment
no longer affects: empathy
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ptufts (ptufts) wrote :

FWIW Mac OS X and at least one chat app - either the default web interface for gmail/gchat or Adium - does the same thing with account photos on Google Talk. Not saying it should (I don't think it should, personally), just pointing out similar behavior in another major OS/Chat app.

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amber (amber) wrote :

Yes! I'm investigating whether this is happening as a result of using my Gmail account for XMPP with pidgin.

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amber (amber) wrote :

Okay. After finding and removing the png from pidgin's files in /home/amber/.purple/icons, and restarting a few things, I'm pretty sure the offending photo is permanently gone. Thank you!

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Matt Joyce (matt-nycresistor) wrote :

That's a bit terrifying.

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Vikram Dhillon (dhillon-v10) wrote :

If I may add to this, the picture uploaded to gmail is whatever your account picture is set to. It's not necessarily what you have taken from the webcam, it can be one of the default ones you can pick. I have seen this in the past for a number of people. This is most likely because of integrating some of the services locally to pidgin or empathy. Let me dig around a little more and I will traige this bug appropiately.

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Kate Stewart (kate.stewart) wrote :

Which version of Ubuntu are you running?

Revision history for this message
Ken VanDine (ken-vandine) wrote :

This is a pidgin issue, which of course isn't in the default Ubuntu install. So thankfully it doesn't effect all Ubuntu users. It is behaving as designed in pidgin. Pidgin sets the default avatar to ~/.face if it exists and if you don't specify one when adding your account. The default avatar is then synced to gtalk if the avatar differs from what gtalk has.

Also of note, it has been this way since Feb 2007.

However, until recently the ~/.face wasn't getting created at install time. So often it wasn't created before users created their pidgin accounts.

affects: ubuntu → pidgin (Ubuntu)
Revision history for this message
amber (amber) wrote :

Thank you.

At the beginning, I couldn't tell it was Pidgin. Ultimately, I would have to agree that it was Pidgin's "responsibility".

However, I've never had a .face before, so I didn't know what the implications of that would be. In light of that, it does seem to me that it would be a nice courtesy on Ubuntu's part to add a warning when creating .face that there are other programs that use it and routinely export it, especially since the .face creation is now explicitly offered on account creation, rather than being something a user seeks out later.

Kate, I'm using 12.04, which I did mention in the original description, but I understand it was a little long.

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