With the help of an Australian government agency, Facebook is testing a new way to protect your intimate images.
Using technology similar to that which helps YouTube recognize copyrighted content, Facebook will pair your image with a digital fingerprint. When the image appears on Facebook or Instagram, that fingerprint must match the account responsible for posting it. (Google’s version of this digital fingerprint is Content ID.)
The catch: in order for a digital fingerprint to be attached to your nude, you must first upload it to Facebook.
This new safety measure, developed in partnership with the Australian government agency for e-Safety, requires test users to send themselves their own nudes via Facebook Messenger. Once a user does so, their photo will be paired with a digital fingerprint that marks the image as belonging to them. If effective, others who then attempt to upload the same photo elsewhere on Facebook (or on Instagram), won’t be able to.
Why is the company teaming up with the Australian government to combat this issue? Because it’s one that they’re very familiar with. One in five Australian women between the ages of 18-45 are victims of revenge porn, and those numbers are even higher for Australia’s population of Indigenous women.
In America, those numbers are much lower, according to a 2016 report conducted by the Data & Society Research Institute – with one in 25 Americans (across both genders) being threatened by or falling victim to nonconsensual intimate image sharing.
“The harms from nonconsensual image sharing can be substantial,” reads the report, “a single act of posting sensitive images can cause lasting and ongoing reputational damage to victims.”
According to Facebook, the company will not be storing these images, but rather, storing a link that corresponds with each image. Using artificial intelligence such as image recognition, the technology should be able to identify one photo in different instances across Facebook’s services.
But the question is, do Facebook users trust the service enough to send them their nudes?
“I just don’t trust them not to keep copies of the file,” Phandroid writer Ashley King commented in a post on the topic.
“Assuming they handle these images like they do any other images uploaded to them, they’ll remain the property of Facebook,” another user commented on the same post. “If true, seems ridiculous that anyone would upload compromising nude photos of themselves and cede ownership of them to Facebook.”
It isn’t the first time Facebook is testing features to prevent and detect revenge porn. Earlier this year, the company launched a new reporting tool that allows users to flag intimate images belonging to them as they appear in their News Feed or elsewhere. By pressing the “Report” button, users initiate a process consisting of image review, removal, and applying restrictions to the offending account.