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The Man Who's Kept His Face Off the Internet for 20 Years 134

An anonymous reader writes: Jonathan Hirshon is a 48-year-old Silicon Valley PR guy. He was an adult when the internet went mainstream, and he went online with a unique bit of forethought: "I decided to play a game with myself: How long could I keep my picture off the Internet." He's managed to keep the internet free of his image for two decades, and he's expanding the game. Hirshon is rallying the troops to outsmart Facebook and Google facial recognition. He asked his friends, "If you're so inclined, take a moment and tag me in some random picture or image. A leaf on the wind, a howler monkey, geometry equations, George Clooney, a large steaming pile of excrement—select an image that you think best suits me or [is] based solely on your whim."
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The Man Who's Kept His Face Off the Internet for 20 Years

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  • by rfengr ( 910026 ) on Friday August 07, 2015 @07:07PM (#50272583)
    I'm just a few years younger and my face is not on the internet either, despite publishing youtube videos, etc..
    • by Joe Gillian ( 3683399 ) on Friday August 07, 2015 @07:14PM (#50272633)

      The big deal is that this guy works in PR. A good chunk of PR these days is managing social media pages. This is just another way to say to his clients, "Look at me! I know how to avoid having my face on the internet despite having a Facebook profile! This clearly means I am the best person to manage your PR campaign, call my office today at (x) or send an email!"

      • The big deal is that this guy works in PR. A good chunk of PR these days is managing social media pages. This is just another way to say to his clients, "Look at me! I know how to avoid having my face on the internet despite having a Facebook profile! This clearly means I am the best person to manage your PR campaign, call my office today at (x) or send an email!"

        I'm not certain I would hire a person who actually worked to keep his picture off the internet.

        Strikes me as being like the crazy uncle that sits around bragging about how he doesn't have a computer.

        • by darkain ( 749283 ) on Friday August 07, 2015 @10:28PM (#50273299) Homepage

          Or how about a super successful PR guy, by getting his story right to the front page of /. and probably many other tech sites. "Hey, if he can get a silly story about himself everywhere, WHAT CAN HE DO FOR US!?" He just PRed the hell outta himself right in to the pocket books of many new clients.

          • Or how about a super successful PR guy, by getting his story right to the front page of /. and probably many other tech sites. "Hey, if he can get a silly story about himself everywhere, WHAT CAN HE DO FOR US!?" He just PRed the hell outta himself right in to the pocket books of many new clients.

            If they are impressed by that, maybe they should hire my uncle, who doesn't have an email account or even a computer. For even longer than the internet has been around. Beats this guy, hands down in the Who friggin cares? contest

            Sorry, I just don't buy it. In order to keep his face off the internet, he has to do stupid things like refusing to stand for group shots, grip and grins, portraits, or any of a list of innocuous things. Maybe even go out in public now that he's bragging about it just like my uncl

            • by Anonymous Coward

              You could've saved a lot of time by just typing "I don't understand your point." Because you clearly don't.

        • I'm not certain I would hire a person who actually worked to keep his picture off the internet.

          It strikes me as being a good sign that he actually has a reasonably good understanding of how various of these technologies work, which is a pretty rare thing amongst the bullshit artists that populate PR. I'm more likely to go postal on a PR department than to recruit one, but as a strategy for getting attention, this works for me.

          Car analogy : You're looking for a garage to service your car. Do you consider J

      • Yeah, this is pretty clearly a self-promotional stunt, especially the please-tag-me-everywhere angle.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hey, I too am an old guy that doesn't see the point of having a picture of my mug on the big bad Internet..
      Well, to be completely honest, I have no friends either, so I don't often leave my basement; this helps a lot.
      Well, to be really completely honest, I once tried to upload a picture of my face on a dating site, but the it refused the picture, pretexting that profile pictures could not be images from animals. I remember I cried that day.
      Now I'm fine.

      • Mine is on the internet. It's pretty damn hard to prevent it without beating up people with cameras and smartphones. However they haven't tagged me in them as I disallow that on G+ and I'm not on Facebook so the picture doesn't link to anything about me. When someone does want to tag me, I just say "what the hell is wrong with you and how did your parents screw up so badly?"

      • Lol, for once my user name is relevant. :)

        But seriously, I'm the same way. I doubt you'll find my picture anywhere on the internet, and if you do, it almost certainly won't have my name attached. Not my real name, and probably not even a fake name.

        20+ years ago I started using a false name for everything internet-related, a nom de plume for the internet, if you will. Behind that was another fake name used for run-of-the-mill stuff. People would dig down through the first fake name, keep digging until
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Despite me being very careful about personal data shared online there are two photos of me on the Internet that I'm aware of. One is in a college yearbook and one my Mom posted on Facebook. The yearbook photo was a complete surprise when I Googled myself. I try to discourage my Mom from posting personal information online but I don't think she gets it.
    • by kmoser ( 1469707 )

      I'm just a few years younger and my face is not on the internet either, despite publishing youtube videos, etc..

      I'll be it is, just not tagged with your name.

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Friday August 07, 2015 @07:09PM (#50272591) Homepage

    "I decided to play a game with myself: How long could I keep my picture off the Internet."

    A game which he will probably shortly lose, since the first rule about keeping your photo off the internet is not to brag about how you've kept your photo off the internet.

    (ack: "Posted by Soulskill on 2015-08-08 0:03 from the good-luck-after-this-article dept.")

    • Damn right. When you start bragging about security on the Internet, you're begging to be attacked. What size image do you really need for a face, 100 x 100? I've got eight concurrent C++ processes brute forcing his face right now.
      • In 24-bit colour, for a 100x100 pixel image, there are just shy of 16.8 billion possible images. Definitely brute-forceable. :P
        • Update... As a bmp that's 30054 bytes per image (in MS Paint anyway), for a total of 4.478 petabytes of data. So pretty big. :P
          • Update... As a bmp that's 30054 bytes per image (in MS Paint anyway), for a total of 4.478 petabytes of data. So pretty big. :P

            You can reduce that pretty quickly, though. A 100x100 image of a face would be only about 70% or so occupied by the face itself, the rest could be black (or white) as it would add nothing of value to the image.

            • Yes, but if a program is generating every possible 100x100 image to brute force an image containing his face, it doesn't know what it's outputting. You'd have to run the output images through a facial recognition system to erase whatever in the image wasn't a face. But it would still have to process the 4.478 PB of produced images.
              • int isThisTheRightFace(int width, int height, unsigned char* image) {}

                It's getting late; I'll do the part inside the braces tomorrow.
              • by p43751 ( 170402 )

                This is quite interesting. In that brute force dataset is also every other face of the earth and then some. How will you know what picture is him?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Isn't it _way_ bigger than 16.8 billion?
          In 24 bit colour each pixel can be one of 16.8 million colours. To create every possible 100x100 pixel image, isn't it going to be around 16,768,216^(100*100) or 10^72244.86859709876?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Erm...no

          That's 10000^16777216 . Probably not brute forceable.

          Make things easier and use a single bit colour space (that's either black or white, no shades of grey) and a 16 x 16 image (now the number of images you have to generate will only be around 3 orders of magnitude less than the number of atoms in the universe).

      • I've got eight concurrent C++ processes brute forcing his face right now.

        That sounds disgusting.

        • C++ bukakke, What's not to like?

          Hey, I've probably broken Rule 34 :

          About 14,200 results (0.58 seconds)
          No results found for "C++ bukakke".
          Results for C++ bukakke (without quotes):

    • Especially in an age where people can purchase tiny rotorcraft equipped with spy cameras in every major department store.

    • by ShaunC ( 203807 )

      No kidding, reminds me of the LifeLock CEO putting his social security number on billboards claiming nobody can steal his identity. It's been stolen, what, 13 times now? I'd never heard of this Hirshon fellow but now he's painted a giant bullseye on himself, Streisand-style. Everyone who encounters him is going to be sneaking a photo.

  • by Sowelu ( 713889 ) on Friday August 07, 2015 @07:10PM (#50272597)

    between the two greatest pasttimes of internet users: "laziness" and "being a dick". Which one will win?!

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Rule #1: There's always some people with waaaaaaaaaaaaay to much time on the Internet.

      See also Winning an argument on the Internet

  • Greg Egan claims there are no photos of him on the Internet either, although I wonder how you could possibly verify that.
    • In order to prove that one's face IS on the Internet, just one positive instance would suffice. On the other hand, any number of instances of 'not finding that image' won't prove that there AIN'T an image somewhere.
    • I won't send you the links... but I personally am aware of at least 5 pictures of Greg Egan on the Internet, since I have met the author at a convention, and the author is quite recognizable in the photos.

  • by reboot246 ( 623534 ) on Friday August 07, 2015 @07:30PM (#50272709) Homepage
    This is my real face ---> :-)

    Somebody posted it years ago and now it's everywhere! Maybe you've re-posted it and not known the harm you were doing. Please stop.
  • by Nethead ( 1563 ) <joe@nethead.com> on Friday August 07, 2015 @07:43PM (#50272763) Homepage Journal

    You won't find mine either. I've been on the net since before www, but you won't find a picture of me. Go ahead, please, try. You have my email address and from that you can get my last name and address. First person to send me a link to an image of my face I'll send you a bottle of nice Irish or an old Motorola HT, your choice.

    • Re:Me neither (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Zero__Kelvin ( 151819 ) on Friday August 07, 2015 @07:54PM (#50272811) Homepage

      "You won't find mine either."

      I have bad news for both you and Jonathan Hirshon. Neither of you has any idea if there is an image of yourselves on the internet or not, but the odds are overwhelmingly against your claim to the contrary.

    • You won't find mine either. I've been on the net since before www, but you won't find a picture of me. Go ahead, please, try. You have my email address and from that you can get my last name and address. First person to send me a link to an image of my face I'll send you a bottle of nice Irish or an old Motorola HT, your choice.

      Wow. That's really impressive. Oh wait, no it isn't - who cares?

      This whole topic seems like an Onion article.

    • I am aware of a good 30 of them... but then I used to work at Whistle with Julian, and know what you look like; in other words, the same "cheat" I used to make the same response about Greg Egan... ;^)

  • That should be the standard pretty much.
    The only people interested on your regular life are people wanting to wreck the hell out of it.

  • you have a driver's license and they got a photo and Name & address on record, think of all the electronic and paper trails the system has on you, about the only place that dont have your info is facebook which dont really matter anyway
    • True (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I once had a UK police officer officer call me in Holland (on my mobile phone) to ask why my car was parked too long in the UK, had I abandoned it? The owner, of the house it was parked outside, was complaining.

      I explained to the police officer that the woman thinks she owns the road outside, and my car is a taxed and legally parked car on the street and the woman uses the police to harass me, because she doesn't like a dirty car outside her house.

      The rozzer got from my car plate to home address and from my

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        I once had a UK police officer officer call me in Holland (on my mobile phone) to ask why my car was parked too long in the UK, had I abandoned it? (...) I explained to the police officer that the woman thinks she owns the road outside, and my car is a taxed and legally parked car on the street.

        Don't know about the UK, but in Norway they can put up temporary signs on public streets like parking prohibited and you're required to comply within 24 hours so leaving it on the street for extended periods could get you fined or towed. Happens both in winter (for snow plowing) and summer (digging up the street and repair mostly), in practice they usually give you longer notice but that's the legal minimum.

  • He is far from alone to have done that, think about all those poor people that don't have access to the internet.
  • what happened to /.? Who the f... care about that f...ing guy who claims to be an Anonymous Coward? We don't give a shit. Next!
  • Goat (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday August 07, 2015 @08:32PM (#50272949) Journal

    The Goatse Guy also kept his face off the Internet. However, the other end was not so fortunate.

  • I've never published or had published pictures of me either. It's not really all that hard, just don't participate.

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      My company did many, many jobs for the government. It is fair that the government is known to the people and, by extension, I am as were many of my employees. It was usually just newspaper articles or some quick blurb on local television but the pictures are out there. As I am now running for office my picture is going to be more prevalent. I do not like it but I have no means or real desire to curtail it. Anyone involved in working for the people must be known to the people (unless it is some secret shit -

  • It may be true that he didn't put his picture up on the Web for 20 years. However, especially in the last five years, given the parties and events that he probably has to attend for his job I'm sure that someone has captured him in a photo and posted it onto the Internet. He may not be the primary person of interest in the picture but I'm sure that he's on there.

    Of course to verify that there are no pictures of him on the Web then he would have to upload a picture of himself onto the Web.

    And technically h

  • by koan ( 80826 )

    No one took his picture and put it on their Facebook/whatever?

    • by PIBM ( 588930 )

      or randomly filmed him in a public location and uploaded the video to youtube? I ask for a picture so we can validate his claim.. There's just no other way!

  • No reputation is worse than a bad reputation. What you did isn't as bad as what my imagination uses to fill empty spaces.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday August 07, 2015 @09:52PM (#50273211) Journal

    "How long could I keep my picture off the Internet."

    Way to throw down the gauntlet, Mr Hirshon.

    I've got $10 that says this guy's dick pix will be all over the Internet by Sunday. Or, we'll find out that he's the subject of the most famous ass pic ever.

  • I'll bet he's the Goatse guy.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    He was PR manager for Sony, and he worked at Apple. He didn't spend that time stumbling around with a paper bag on his head - he had lots of photos taken (cough*Internet Archive*cough). Same with his school years.

    tl;dr? He's a spin doctor. He tells huge lies and people buy them. There's a big difference between asking that people mis-tag photos with your name and not having any photos of you on the internet - to do that he'd have needed to avoid ever being photographed. Hint: if you ever had a school year p

  • I was free and clear until I decided I wanted a Linked In. I knew that would put a picture of me up, but I figured the dubious loss of that would be made up for by the dubious gain of having a Linked In.

Memories of you remind me of you. -- Karl Lehenbauer

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