Resist and Take Control of Technology
The distribution of intimate sexual or erotic material without consent has a very clear goal: to discipline heterosexual women and LGBTIQ people who experience their sexuality free from patriarchal logics. There is no recognition of agency or subjects; therefore, their consent is not taken into consideration either – their bodies exist solely for the patriarchal pleasure. In face of that, there are two general options: to pull yourself back and renounce to every kind of sexual pleasure through technology; or to resist and regain control of our own sexuality, our bodies and our technology. If you choose the second option, we have a few recommendations for you to reduce the risks.
To give another person control over technology to document, store and disseminate sexual and erotic material about you is very risky. Leave the idea that only heterosexual men can deal with technology behind and don’t be scarred: get information, strength your knowledge, empower yourself and adopt safe tools. If you need suggestions, you can find them here or here. You don’t need to be a specialist to have control over technology and your data on it. Remember: your body, your rules; your technology, your rules.
Many times we are very careful about the publication of the material, but the truth is there are three key stages you should try to have control of: recording, storage and publication (D.S.P.). Don’t feel afraid to make questions in each one of these stages, to imagine hypothetical scenarios and not to consent anything unless you’re sure about everything. Here you can find some examples:
Recording: Who is going to record it, and how? Are we going to show our faces? Do I want the record to be done at my place? Are we going to edit it later? The device used to do the record will save an automatic copy on the “cloud”? How many copies of the material will be made?
Storage: Where are we going to store the record? On your computer? In the “cloud”? For how long? Who will have access to the record? What safety measures are you going to take in order to restrict access to the record?
Publication: Who do we want to see the record? On which platform are we going to publish it? In case we decide to delete the record, are we sure it’s going to be erased completely? How seriously does the platform take the safety and privacy of its users? What about the title, description and tags of the material that we are going to upload?
Never allow anyone to document, store or publish your graphic sexual material without your informed participation along the process and without your consent in each of the stages: recording, storage and publication. A general “yes” is not valid, especially if it was obtained through psychological manipulation or as a result of threats. If you give your consent to do the recording this doesn’t mean you automatically agreed on the other stages. Therefore it is important to be conscious of the decisions in each one of the D.S.P. stages.
If you don’t want to be identified, avoid showing identifiable features or places. Your face, tattoos, the decoration in your room and other aspects that may allow your identity to be recognized. Using masks, filming in some different place or covering body marks or tattoos can make it harder to identify you.
The photos and videos you make can also contain metadata that is not visible at first sight, but may help to identify you, for example: dates, GPS coordinates and other image data.
At the moment of the recording, you can already avoid to save a specific kind of metadata. Many of the devices allow you to deactivate the wireless localization, GPS and mobile data; and you may also deactivate the feature that automatically tags your localization. Try to get familiar with the configuration of the device that is going to be used in the recording, and if you already do, always prefer to make the video or photo with your own equipment
You may also delete metadata later. If you use Windows, you can use Metanull (here you can find an English guide). Another application that may help you to hide physical traits and metadata in your photos is ObscuraCam.
Review the material and edit whatever bothers you. Remember that pixelating faces is not the best way to make them anonymous (with some techniques it’s easy to figure out whose face it is). The best way to avoid that is using masks or simply not letting any face appear in the material.
Consider adding a watermark to the material, which is basically a semi-transparent stamp (usually a logo or signature) over the image for tracking purposes in the case of illicit use by a third party. Click here to discover how to add watermarks and track your material.
Anyone can have access to your graphic sexual material if you don’t store it safely. The best way to do that is to encrypt the files and use strong passwords. Operational systems like Windows, MacOS and Linux have native tools for that, and there are other programs that allow you to create encrypted folders on your computer (that means no one will see them unless someone has the password).
In the digital world it takes seconds to make copies of anything. However, before you publish the material, while it’s still in the private sphere, be aware of how many copies of it you possess, where are they stored, under which security level, who has access to them, how long will they exist. Remember you can use watermarks on the material to make it trackable. In case there is a “non-consensual pornography” incident, it will be easier to track where it comes from.
You should have strong passwords in your devices and services both to store and publish the material. Many cases of “non-consensual pornography” happen because the devices didn’t have strong passwords or these were too easy to guess.
Avoid obvious passwords, like your birthday or 12345; it’s better to use large sentences, in other languages, combining lower and uppercases, characters and numbers. Additionally, there are Internet services that provide a “two step verification” feature to protect your passwords.
If you want to take it to the next level, use portable tools to create a database of strong passwords, like KeePass.
Oh! And don’t share your passwords WITH NO ONE, neither use the same password for multiple Internet services. If you, for any reason, end up sharing a password with someone, change it whenever possible.
If you want to delete photos or videos, be sure to remove all traces from the devices. Basically remember to delete all files and then to empty the computer recycle bin.
Please remember: when you delete a file, it doesn’t disappear from your hard drive and may be recovered by anyone with a bit of luck and the appropriate tools. This is why it is so important to use extra tools like “CC Cleaner”, an application that helps you to delete file traces available to Android, Windows and Mac OS. You can find a guide to use CC Cleaner here.
Additionally, if you’re using an Internet browser, we recommend you to choose “Private Browsing” and always check the history and cookies, and delete them. If you’ve made downloads, don’t forget to delete the files that usually remain in the “Download” folder of your device. Don’t forget the “modo incognito” won’t make you anonymous; this navigation mode just deletes history and cookies when it’s finished, and does NOT delete the downloaded files.
Also remember that the photo album of your cell phone/computer can (and probably will) synchronize with the “cloud” (some company’s server). Therefore, you should be careful about the material that ends up in these folders. If you want to deactivate the automatic synchronization, we will provide you here with the help links of the most popular services: iCloud (if you’re using Apple), Google Photos (if you’re using Android), Dropbox or OneDrive (Microsoft).
Try to keep your images away from the “cloud” as long as possible. It is not a good idea to keep them in your email, or in a shared folder of a storage service, or using similar methods. Sharing online accounts and passwords is a particularly risky practice.
Be also aware when you download images to your device, because they may be added to its photo album and, as a consequence, be automatically uploaded to the services we mentioned. For the same reason, it’s a bad idea to share Apple, Google or Microsoft accounts, which would make the exchange of information between devices that use iOS, Android or Windows easier.
For the Brazilian organization Coding Rights, a reliable application should offer end-to-end encryption, block screenshots attempts, enable self-destroying messages, and messages that are automatically deleted from devices and servers; it also shouldn’t ask for your email or any personal data, among other features.
In this context, there is no 100% safe application and it’s important to get informed and evaluate the risks of each one. In other words: be critical and do not use any application, even if it’s free.
So, for example, it would be IDEAL if you followed Coding Rights recommendation to avoid using “text messages (SMS), iMessage, WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook (please, don’t!), Tinder, Happn or any other messenger service that shows your telephone number or allows you to download images shared with others”.
If you share photos and videos through these services, be sure that the material is anonymous and hide your face and other characteristics that may identify you (please check the recommendations for recording).
Some of these applications offer the possibility to define a certain timeframe to automatically delete the messages you send (timer), and it’s not a bad idea to define a very short time for the message to be seen and to immediately disappear. Many services offer this possibility in “secret chats”.
We recommend you to give a chance to Confide. It uses end-to-end encryption, images disappear right after being viewed, you receive a notification when someone tries to make a screenshot (even if the person can always take a picture of the screen) and, very important, it doesn’t ask your telephone number to use the service.
There are websites that allow “adult content” publishing, using porn video platforms, but also content managers like Blogger. Before doing this, consider two important things: uploading this material to any website means you always lose control of the copies; and the material could appear in search engines, like Google or Yahoo!
If you still want to upload the material, do it taking the following precautions.
a) When choosing the platform:
– Prefer platforms that use encrypted communication, which means they have https (you can identify this protocol by a small safety lock placed before the navigator’s address bar).
– Prefer platforms that have additional security protocols for your password, like the “two-step verification” system.
– Prefer platforms that have protocols against “non-consensual pornography”. You may review this information at Key 1 of our website.
– If you create a user account, don’t use your real name, and don’t leave any traces that may identify your location. Do not trust platforms that don’t offer you the possibility to use a pseudonym. Also don’t use emails that allow you to be easily identified, neither avatars with your characteristics.
– Prefer platforms that can be configured not to appear in search engines.
b) During the upload:
– Keep control of all information related to the material, like title, description and tags. These fields are crucial for platforms and search engines to find and display your material more easily. The less information you provide, the more difficult it will be to find you. By any means include information that may identify you in the description and tags (like names, addresses, cities).
– Some platforms allow you to alter the visibility level of the material: you can make it private, show it only to your friends, or to everyone; it can appear on search engines or not. Take this into consideration and keep control of it.
Other External Resources
Other External Resources
Check out Safer Nudes!from Coding Rights to get more safety recommendations and take back control of your sexuality on the Internet. Information available in Spanish, Portuguese and English.
Another fun feature from Coding Rights is #SaferSisters, a collection of GIFs for women and non-binary people to nail tech apps, gadgets and habits.
There is precious information in “The Gendersec Curricula” from Tactical Tech Collective. It’s a resource that introduces a holistic, feminist perspective to privacy and digital security trainings, formed by years of work with women and trans activists around the world.
Take Back The Tech! has also gathered valuable information about digital safety with a feminist approach in its Safety Toolkit.