Shubnum’s friend told her she’d seen her face in the newspaper. That was just the beginning.

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When South African author, Shubnum Khan, was at university she was offered a free photoshoot.

The photographer offered Khan and her friends some free professional portraits in exchange for using the photos in his portfolio.

Khan went along to the photoshoot, received her free photos, and didn’t give it a second thought.

Then six years ago, a friend in Canada told Khan she had found her face on an advertisement promoting immigration in a local newspaper.

At first, Khan was confused about how her image had turned up in a newspaper on the other side of the world, then she remembered the photoshoot.

“After some WTF moments, a friend reminded me we did a photoshoot a few years ago. When I was at university I heard about a free photoshoot by a CT photographer who promised us professional portraits in exchange for shooting us,” she explained on Twitter.

“It was called the 100 Faces Shoot & the photographer took photos of 100 various faces of all ages & races in Durban. Young friends & I were excited; we signed a release form at the start (I thought it was to give him permission to use the photos for his portfolio). We didn’t read the small print. I know. It was stupid.”

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Since then, Khan’s image has turned up in countless advertisements and on numerous websites across the globe.

Her face has been used to advertise everything from carpets in New York, dental sedation in Virginia, treks in Cambodia and even university courses in Australia.

Khan’s ethnicity is also often changed to suit the audience of the ad.

“I’m Seng Bonny leading Cambodian tours, Phoebe Lopez from San Francisco, Kelsi from San Francisco, Chandra from California, Christine from LaTrobe Uni, Dina M etc,” she writes on Twitter.

Khan shared some of the images on Twitter:

Khan contacted the photographer and he took the photos down from his portfolio, but told her he has no control over the use of the images which have already been purchased.

And all of this was legal because Khan didn’t read the small print.

The author said she hopes other people will learn from her mistake.

“I hope my story is also a cautionary tale to be careful what you sign,” she said.

“Because while it’s occasionally funny to randomly come across your face on a board at the McDonalds in China, you also don’t want to be Dina M, complaining about post pregnancy melasma to the internet or calling out for prince charming on a white horse (OK, that bit is okay).

“It’s also pretty telling of how easily you can be exploited in this new age and how startlingly deceptive everything is. Those testimonials are fake, those adverts are fake. Your holiday tour guide, your tutor or your future bride could just be some random uni student living her life in a small town in South Africa not knowing about how her image is being used.”

“Be clever. Be aware. Don’t get caught up,” she said. “I’m sure I could have made some money out of this, but instead I’m out there promoting acne cream while someone else gets the profits.”

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