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Sex and technology seem to go together like steak and potatoes. Many people – some of whom you might not expect – have taken to to using smartphones as a part of their sex life, leading to a rise in amateur photos and film. These shots are supposed to be private, of course, sent only to lovers for their eyes only, but they often prove more permanent than they relationships that inspired them. And when a lover is hurt, revenge often follows. Here’s what you can – and can’t – do to protect your most private moments.

Revenge Porn Is Business

Using private, amateur pornography as a tool for revenge or blackmail is hardly a new idea; the concept’s as old as the camera. In 1980, for example, Hustler published reader-submitted photos of women and – surprise, surprise! – it turned out some were submitted without permission.

Yet the prevalence of smartphones packing cameras has made it so common that it’s become a constant addendum to the latest headline news.  The guy whose kid died in a hot car? He was sexting. The senator jockeying to be the mayor of New York, New York? He was sexting. High school students? They’re sexting, too.

revengeporn1

Amateur photos have become a literal commodity.  For example, Isanyoneup.com (which went by the slogan “Pure Evil”), published nude photos sent in by, well, just about anyone. The site then offered to take them down, but only for a fee, which netted the site’s owner Hunter Moore over ten thousand dollars a month. The site was eventually taken down amid a drama saga far too insane to detail here, and Moore was arrested by the FBI earlier this year, but revenge porn distribution has simply moved to other anonymous sources, such as Tor.

In short, the threat of revenge porn is very real.

No one knows exactly how many nude amateur photos and videos are sent each day, month or year, but an FBI study found that at least 20% of teens had sent at least one nude or semi-nude photo. Adults above the age of consent no doubt send them even more often. If you have sent, or have received, a nude photo, you’re in the company of world leaders, generals and movie stars – and you’re also a potential target.

Could It Happen To Me?

Of course it could.

Sending a nude photo or video via smartphone text, email or cloud account is perhaps the most severe voluntary breach of privacy you could commit. It’s arguably worse than taking a Polaroid, sticking it in an envelope, and sending it to a hundred random people in the mail. At least those photos will one day degrade, can be permanently destroyed, take modest effort to copy and aren’t necessarily associated with your private information.

Digital photo and video, on the other hand, can be endlessly copied within seconds – and once that happens there’s no hope of stopping it. Worse still, the receiver is likely to have your phone number or email, and they’re likely have your social media contacts and address as well. If the relationship turns sour they have not just the means to humiliate you but also the information they need to help others do the same.

All of this may seem scary, perhaps excessively so, but I don’t think the problem can be overstated. I write frequently about computer malware, phishing scams and identity theft, all of which are serious problems. But a computer can be reset. Credit cards can be canceled. Fraudulent accounts can be closed and slowly, with great effort, cleaned up. The damage can be reversed. A photo, however, can’t be recalled once it’s online. Even if the person who shared it is found and punished the photo itself will always be out there, floating in cyberspace until the day the world ends.

And you may still have a problem even if the person you’re intimately texting can be trusted. Why? ‘Cause NSA Your Interest in Privacy Will Ensure You're Targeted By The NSA Your Interest in Privacy Will Ensure You're Targeted By The NSA Read More , of course. One of Snowden’s most recent revelations is an accusation that some NSA employees are more than happy to pass intercepted nudies among their co-workers, a practice that’s perhaps unsurprising, but disturbing to have confirmed.

What Can You Do?

The most obvious, safest route is to simply not send nude photos of yourself or others, period. Anything sent can in some way be shared, so there’s no way to securely distribute such material. Even sending it as an encrypted file doesn’t work since, of course, the encryption must be reversed for the photo or video to be usable.

You can provide yourself some modest security, however, with a secure messaging app like Privatext and TextSecure. These apps send messages as encrypted data rather than as a general SMS, and the messages can be opened only in the app itself. As a result, anything sent through these apps cannot be easily saved or shared, and some secure text messaging services let users delete a message after it’s already been sent.

textsecure

But these apps can never provide full security because any image opened by the receiver could also be captured via a screenshot or with a camera, in turn bypassing the app’s security. There’s also been plenty of accusations of loopholes, too; for example, a PCMag.com review of Text Secure complained that messages appeared in the notification center, rendering the app’s security questionable.

Another alternative is to use a password protected cloud service. Dropbox for business provides the option to send files protected by a password. Photobucket and Smartimage also provide this option. But on the other hand, there’s some risk in using a potentially public service to share anything at all. Accidentally check the wrong box and your nudie could end up in someone else’s image stream.

Perhaps the best option is a file sharing service that supports automatic file destruction. DSTRUX, a new cloud storage site that lets users share files that are automatically deleted after a user-defined time period, is a good example. The service even wraps files in code that prevents them from being shared or saved, and the service notifies the sender of the file if the receiver tries to take a screen capture. This is undoubtedly the most secure way to flash someone online, but it can still be defeated by a simple camera – and it’s a bit of hassle, don’t you think?

There’s More To It Than Revenge

Revenge porn is usually associated with angry boyfriends or girlfriends looking to seek retribution against someone who dumped them, cheated on them, or both. Yet not all so-called revenge porn is really about revenge. There are plenty of ways that ne’er-do-wells can access amateurs with their arse out. Stolen smartphones, hijacked webcams, and Trojan malware can put your most private moments in the hands of strangers. Grabbing a stripped-down selfie may not have even been the goal, but if a phone thief finds your collection of buff shots they may show it to friends for a laugh. Next thing you know, you’re a meme!

memes

That’s why you should follow smartphone security What You Really Need To Know About Smartphone Security What You Really Need To Know About Smartphone Security Read More and computer security best practices. We’ve already written extensively on both topics, so instead of repeating what’s been said I’ll simple direct you to the hyperlinks your eyes just passed by. Sure, adding a key lock and enabling remote wipe is a chore, but you’ll be glad you did if the phone ever goes MIA.

Remember The Risk

Despite the risks, million of people still send nude photos and suggestive texts. And who can blame them? There are few people truly uninterested in sex, and the very risk involved in sending photos to and fro can be part of the fun. Just remember what that risk can mean if you are one of the unlucky few whose privacy ends up destroyed and, at the very least, take the most basic measures of securing your smartphone and computer against attack.

Image Credit: DeviantArt/One-Clumsy-Bunny

  1. Diana I
    August 7, 2014 at 3:37 am

    To do that I'd have to be a premium member there,art on deviant is for people to see and use after asking, deviantart works with credits AND permission,since I have nothing to do with the article,taking my picture down is the right thing to do :).Thak you,good article,but my face is not what I want or need around it.

  2. Diana I
    August 6, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    Nice,but you never asked for permission to actually use my photo in this article...

    • Matt S
      August 7, 2014 at 12:03 am

      I'm happy to take it down if you'd like, but FYI, you should change your permission settings if it's an issue. Right now this photo shows up in Google Image Search as "labeled for reuse" and contains a Creative Commons license that allows free use even for commercial purposes.

  3. Yogita A
    August 1, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Indeed sharing private photos can put one in a big blunder but what if you don't share such photos and someone create nude photos from your normal photos with the help of Photoshop, the technology.

    Speaking out from my personal experience. Some people are so cyco. Being a blogger it is quite difficult for me to hide my self from my world though I believe to be Genuine.

    • Matt S
      August 3, 2014 at 8:30 pm

      That's also a valid point as to why this situation can't be reduced to just blaming the victim. Photoshop does crazy things these days, and social networks are unresponsive pricks when it comes to taking down fake or hacked accounts.

  4. Chris
    July 31, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Speaking of posting things without consent, I wonder what Madison Banks is thinking right now...

  5. Adrian
    July 31, 2014 at 11:15 am

    I agree with you Diana, but like all addictions some people are more susceptible to it than others. It all comes down to knowing yourself and taking the appropriate precautions.

    As regards the revenge porn angle, I agree with dragonmouth...if you consciously allow someone to take a picture of you naked, then you deserve what you get. The truth is, someone who truly loves (or loved) you would never use a picture to get revenge. If they do they never loved you...they lusted after you and are now jealous that someone else has access to their partner.

    And that comes back to having superficial (based on the physical, emotional) rather than deep, meaningful relationships (intellectual).

    • Lucy
      December 1, 2015 at 10:58 pm

      Porn is what I like but not when I don't want it! I have also been raped before and it sort of felt good but I was scared.

  6. Diana Echols
    July 31, 2014 at 5:39 am

    I've been waiting for a long time to see this subject come up. PORN, SOCIAL SITES(Which we all know that it's not for chatting anymore) AND SINGLE WEBSITES HAVE TAKEN OVER THE WORLD AND HAS CORRUPTED THE YOUNG AND THE OLD. Now it's called an ILLNESS due to the fact that it all starts off with a little bit of Nudity, then Sex, then Exotic and Abusive Sex, then to Social Sites and then to Singles Sites to where you can get anything you want if you got money and a Relationship or a Long Time Marriage doesn't matter to the people looking at it or to the ones providing the services . When you have gone though each one of these steps and told so many lies, it has consumed your life. There are so many people that the devotion to their family is not s important as it use to be. Your devotion to your job is gone because they have provided you tools to do your job but now you use it for you pleasures. Why are they calling it an ILLNESS, it's because the person you use to be is devoted and addicted to something else other than family or work. When you are no longer able to be turned on by your spouse or synificate other like it use to be, it's because of the fantasy world you've lived for to long. Now, it's time to seek Counseling and there are more out there now for these than there ever before but the denial will kick in. It's your choice to keep your Marriage and Family or you live in the filthy world you've been in. It states in the Bible, god says this is Adultery. I guess what really throws me off about all this is your Spouse is expected to look good, have good hygiene but when it comes to these people offering their services or you just looking at it, why is it not a turn off? THEY NEED TO MAKE THIS AN ILLEGAL DRUG.... I've said all thi because my I've been with my Husband 24 yrs and the last 2 1/2 years I've lived through living Hell and to top it off, he told me when we had our 20yr Anniversary that we were going back to Las Vegas to renew our Vows. Didn't Happen. I've seen and read about how many Families have been torn apart from this Filthy and Pure Trashy people that have no Respect for their bodies or themselves and could care less how you and your Family are affected by it. I hope I didn't offend anyone by my opinion or experience and I hope that I can save a few Families by letting haring my knowledge with you.

  7. dragonmouth
    July 30, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    "Taking photos of people without their knowledge is easy."
    Only if they put themselves in that position. There are countless millions of Internet users whose pictures are NOT circulating online. If one does not get undressed in view of others, especially those with cameras, one will not have their nude picture taken. Stupid is as stupid does.

    • Matt S
      July 30, 2014 at 10:58 pm

      So if your SO is using your phone near you, do you force them to show it to you, so you know they haven't taken a photo of you? Do you never visit a gym, or pool, or any place else with a public shower? You've never had a back window open and decided to change your shorts cause hey, it's only a second - no one is looking?

      I'll go as far as to say it's not normal to never put yourself in a position where you might have been photographed nude without your knowledge. Most people get naked in front of someone, sometime.

    • dragonmouth
      July 30, 2014 at 11:24 pm

      Say what you want. My picture is not on the Internet, neither are those of my family. Nobody is blackmailing us.

      And no, I do not live 100 miles from the nearest house.

    • A41202813GMAIL
      July 31, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      You Do Not Know What The Grey Color Is, Do You ?

      I Hope You Do Not Drink Anything, In Your House Or Otherwise.

      I Hope You Do Not Eat Anything, In Your House Or Otherwise.

      I Hope You Do Not Breath Anything, In Your House Or Otherwise.

      I Hope You Do Not Attend Social Events, In Your House Or Otherwise.

      If You Are Worth Doing It ( Maybe You Are Not ), Someone Somewhere Will Try To Take Advantage Of You, And There Will Be Pictures, Period.

      Did I Say, You Do Not Know What The Grey Color Is ?

      Cheers.

    • Ryashini K
      July 31, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      I'm afraid you are being naive. I can only hope that you don't learn the hard way.

  8. dragonmouth
    July 30, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    I'm sorry but in this case anyone stupid enough to allow nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves to be taken deserves what they get in. And that goes for the aspiring porn stars.

    • Matt S
      July 30, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      While I agree that sending nudies is risky, we can't always blame the victim. Taking photos of people without their knowledge is easy. If you'd like to see proof yourself just go check out some of the creepier threads on Reddit and 4chan. All you can do is reduce the chances by being aware of the photos you do control.

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