They steal your photos. And sell them to strangers. And it's legal.

We couldn’t believe it either.

A new Dutch website which offers people the ability to purchase merchandise featuring pictures of other people’s children has made thousands of parents seriously reconsider what they post online.

Koppie Koppie is an online business which is being criticised for profiting off pictures of other people’s kids. The scary thing is that it’s totally legal.

Image via company website.

The sales line says, "Someone's kid on your favourite mug", the company thrives on parents not worrying about their online security.

And it aims to make the point that parents should be more aware when it comes to online privacy.

The website obtains copies of personal images via social media accounts and is able to do so via a creative commons license on photo sharing website Flickr. All the photos used are freely available and are being used to decorate products for people to buy.

If parents see an image of their child on the website, the company says they will remove it upon request, However, this can take up to two weeks. Image via company website.

That's right, a stranger can have a coffee mug printed with a photo of your child, and there is legally nothing you can do about it.

This just creeps me right out.

Koppie Koppie acknowledges the shadiness of their merchandise but says that "it's a joke, but a serious one".

At the moment the website offers parents who see an image of their child the option to have it removed from the site (this takes up to two weeks). However, their aim is to tell parents that they should be exercising far more control when it comes to posting pictures should they not wish for them to be available for public reproduction.

An excerpt from Koppie Koppie's website.

Seeing this kind of business cropping up makes me incredibly nervous. Koppie Koppie's aim opens up the fact that it is a legitimate business making money off stealing parent's photos and making money off distributing those photos.

As the parent of two young boys and an avid social media user, I have always been cautious about what I choose to post online. But a website like Koppie Koppie only highlights loopholes in the online world. Once something is published online, it can be very hard to claim ownership over it down the track (Koppie Koppie's point).

While I have done my utmost to protect my children in terms of my own online privacy settings, it concerns me that if someone I was friends with online copied and pasted a picture of mine elsewhere, I have essentially lost control and am helpless as to its audience.

I for one will be approaching online photo sharing a lot more cautiously from now on. I've already ceased using harsh tags on apps like instagram after I was made aware of the ability for strangers to see images via public search and I'm taking the time to educate myself on whether or not I do have the highest possible privacy settings on all of my accounts.

In a digital world such as the one we live in, it's hard to retain a life which doesn't have at least some online component. With more and more family and friends living oversea, my use of social media enables me to stay connected and share updates about our lives but seeing news of websites legally able to steal and republish personal pictures (and that there is a market for this) makes me sick to my stomach.

Will this website make you reconsider what you post online?

Want more? Try:

Sexting, bullying and privacy – how to keep your kids safe online.

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