Want to protect yourself from being embarrassed by nude photos? Facebook has launched an initiative to assist its users from being exploited with “revenge porn” from ex-partners, and the only thing you have to do is … send the world’s largest social-media platform all the nude photographs you have of yourself.
They’re actually serious about that request:
Facebook is asking users to send the company their nude photos in an effort to tackle revenge porn, in an attempt to give some control back to victims of this type of abuse.
Individuals who have shared intimate, nude or sexual images with partners and are worried that the partner (or ex-partner) might distribute them without their consent can use Messenger to send the images to be “hashed”. This means that the company converts the image into a unique digital fingerprint that can be used to identify and block any attempts to re-upload that same image.
They promise to delete them when the conversion is complete, which is probably just what your ex-partner told you, too. They’re only for me, honey! I’ll burn them after a few days. Trust me!
Not, er, that I’d know anything about that …
[U]sers must first complete an online form on the e-safety commissioner’s website outlining their concerns. They will then be asked to send the pictures they are concerned about to themselves on Messenger while the e-safety commissioner’s office notifies Facebook of their submission. Once Facebook gets that notification, a community operations analyst will access the image and hash it to prevent future instances from being uploaded or shared.
Facebook will store these images for a short period of time before deleting them to ensure it is enforcing the policy correctly, the company said.
Uh-huh. Even supposing the system worked in this fashion, that still leaves access to the files open to nameless, faceless employees that may or may not be inclined to linger through them for a while, or worse. There’s also a possibility that a hack could expose those files, especially since it’s now public knowledge that Facebook is collecting them. Facebook has been conducting this as a pilot program, and Australia’s ABC reports that Facebook wants to assure its users that they’ll keep the cache very secure:
The e-Safety Commissioner said safeguards would ensure the photos would be secure inside Facebook.
“They thought of many different ways about doing this and they came to the conclusion as one of the major technology companies in the world that this was the safest way for users to share the digital footprints,” Ms Inman Grant said.
“We have a great deal of comfort that they have chose the most secure route … we want to empower people to be able to protect themselves and take action, we don’t want to make them vulnerable.”
Riiiiiight. Hackers managed to find celebrity nude selfies by attacking supposedly secure cloud servers without necessarily knowing ahead of time that those images would be accessible. Just imagine all of the adolescent impulses that would be brought to bear on Facebook’s platform by hackers with that pot o’ gold at the end of their hormonal rainbow.
“Revenge porn” is no laughing matter, but if the solution is to send even more nude photographs into the ether, then perhaps there is no good solution to it. Aggressive prosecution and sentencing would provide a big disincentive, but the best prevention is simply not to have nude photographs of yourself taken in the first place, whether by yourself or a trusted-for-now partner.