By now you all know that some asshole hacker stole a bunch of nude photos of celebrities (most notably, Jennifer Lawrence) and broadcast them to the world via 4chan, Reddit’s nasty little brother. The only thing keeping me from closing my computer and giving up for good is the fact that the glee of misogynist dickheads hiding behind Reddit’s anonymity protections has been equally matched – if not surpassed – by writer after writer pointing out that this is a serious violation, a sexual violation, and an unpardonable crime.
In addition to soaking up all of the great writing from fellow feminists and decent human beings that has come out of this criminal act, I’ve also started thinking about the fact that I – like most adults under the age of 40 in 2014 – have some pretty incriminating images out there, some of which are stored in the cloud just like J Law’s were. What would I do if they got into the wrong hands, either through a vengeful ex or a hacker? How can I work to prevent a crime like this happening to me and what can you, fellow sexy photo taker, do too?
First of all, I’m not going to tell you to not take sexy pictures because taking sexy pictures is fun and if you want that to be a part of your sex life, I say go for it. It’s a great way to keep up the heat when you’re far away from a lover or even just when you want to tease her at work. So, yeah, I’m gonna throw up a swift two fingers to anyone who pulls a victim blaming “That’s what she gets for taking naked pictures.” Fuck you, please, and just stop talking.
Here’s what you can do to prevent your photos getting out there.
The number one thing you can do to protect all of your data – nude photos or no – is create super strong password. I wrote about this after the recent Russian hacker breach, but my favorite tool for keeping track of all of your unique, strong passwords is 1Password. It not only generates super strong passwords for you but also stores them in one place, making them passwords easily accessible – but only to you.
Another important step to take is implementing two-step identification on all of your accounts. iCloud (where the photos in this latest crime were stolen from) has this option, but Apple has never pushed it. Two-step identification does exactly what it sounds like – adds one more step to the process of accessing your data. This often means a text message sent to your phone, which is pretty awesome when you consider the fact that a potential hacker would also need to have physically robbed you in order to get around it.
For some more help on this subject, I turn to Violet Blue, an internet activist who writes about sex and sexuality. She has a great post on DDNet outlining other steps you can take to protect yourself, including wiping hard drives, using burner phones, taping over your webcam, and never signing in on someone else’s hardware in case they’ve been hacked. She also wrote an entire book on the topic called The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy, which is now officially on my Must Read List For All Millennial Women.
But when it’s not hackers but shitty exes putting your photos up…
That’s a whole other story, isn’t it? Since no one ever thinks that the person they sent a racy photo to would ever post it online (why would they send it if they did?) there’s really not a great way to protect against it happening. What you can do, however, is take steps to remove photos once they’ve been posted without your permission.
According to Violet Blue, the very first step you should take is finding every single photo out there and sending a takedown request to the site’s hosts, while simultaneously documenting everything you can find. This is an arduous, seemingly never-ending process but Violet points out that the images usually pop up in waves, with each wave getting smaller and smaller until it’s basically non existent.
The next think Violet recommends is to stay online – don’t run and hide by deleting all of your social media accounts. While it’s tempting to disappear for a while when private photos of you have been shared without your permission, deleting your positive online presence will only result in the negative stuff surfacing to the top of your Google results. For help with managing your online presence and making sure the things you don’t want seen get properly buried, check out an online reputation management service like BrandYourself.
There are also legal steps that can be taken against people and websites who share your images without your permission but, unfortunately, the law hasn’t really caught up with internet privacy issues and different women have had varying degrees of success with the legal system.
And, of course, there’s the fact that most police forces don’t have a great track record when it comes to respectfully dealing with violations of women, virtual, physical, or otherwise.
If you need extra support in your fight against hacked images or revenge porn, head over to Without My Consent and End Revenge Porn. Both sites exist to provide moral, practical, and legal support and empowerment for women who have been targeted like Jennifer Lawrence was.
As Dan Savage has said time and time again, the invention of the smart phone means we all have mini porn studios in our pockets and we’re all making porn. Does the act of taking and sharing these images with our intimate partners mean the internet has a right to see those images? No. Does it mean the internet might see those images? Yes. But that doesn’t make it okay. Let’s take steps to protect our right to free sexual expression – and privacy from the public eye.