First things first: Janet Lane is not a teenage boy.
You can imagine her surprise when friends started alerting her that emails she sent from her Hotmail account arrived with a picture of a young man wearing a lime green shirt holding what appears to be a big, hairy tarantula.
The Prospect Heights resident, who uses her Hotmail account for business emails, said the vanity shot wasn't exactly how she envisioned portraying herself to the outside world.
"I looked at it and I thought: 'What is that?'" Lane said. "It's not an objectionable picture, but it's a young guy, and it doesn't help my image of being a professional and wanting to be taken seriously."
After some sleuthing, Lane tracked the photograph to a profile picture on a young man's Facebook account. The young man also shared her first initial, J., and last name, Lane.
Lane realized that somehow, based on their initials and last names, the young man's Facebook account had been linked to her email.
"From what I've been able to investigate, the problem stems from this other J. Lane … using my email address as his own on his Facebook page, perhaps a simple typo on his part," Lane said.
Figuring there was an easy fix, Lane contacted Facebook and Microsoft, which runs the Hotmail service through its Outlook server.
Facebook replied with one canned sentence: "We cannot respond individually to each report, but we would like you to know that your report will be used to improve Facebook."
Great for Facebook, not so great for Lane.
Microsoft was similarly unhelpful.
"Microsoft seems to think that this issue is something I can control — or that I can contact this other person and ask him to change something on his Facebook settings, but I have no way of doing that," she said. "Although I have repeatedly stated I don't know this other J. Lane, Microsoft does not seem to understand I don't know him, nor do I have any way of contacting him."
Tired of seeing the other J. Lane's photo on her outgoing email, Lane emailed What's Your Problem?
"The thought that Microsoft has made this linkage between my email and the other Facebook page is an outrageous breach of privacy and is flat out wrong," she said. "For Microsoft or Facebook to do this without the user's knowledge is really an invasion."
The Problem Solver contacted Amanda Gibbs, a spokeswoman for Microsoft, and forwarded Lane's complaint.
On Monday, Gibbs emailed to say the situation has been resolved.
"This seems to be a very rare case where someone stopped using his Hotmail address after it had been previously associated with his Facebook account," Gibbs said.
She said Outlook.com, and previously Hotmail, deletes accounts after a year of inactivity. After a period of time, the email address is recycled and available for someone else to use.
"It appears that your reader registered the email account after it had been recycled," Gibbs said. "There is currently no way for Facebook to know this, nor for Microsoft to know that the email account had been previously used on Facebook."
Gibbs said this is the first case Microsoft has seen where this has occurred.
"Facebook has disabled this email address for the previous user's Facebook account, and Microsoft has cleared the data from its systems," Gibbs said. "The issue should now be fully resolved."
Lane checked her email and confirmed the picture of the young man has been removed.
"Well, lo and behold!" she said.
Lane said Microsoft also upgraded her account.
"That was a nice surprise," she said.