The Six Most Troubling Digital Privacy Stories of the Year – by “Joseph Y – YLT2012”

1. Creepshots preys on women in public

You go to a coffee shop wearing your favorite sundress. You sit, sip your latte, and try to finish a fantastic 18th century British novel. Don’t let the seasonal cups, peppermint aromas, and Imogen Heap music fool you—you may be in danger of becoming the next girl featured on Creepshots, a subreddit on which men post photos of random girls they see in public. Most of the time the pics are taken right out in the open. Sometimes, however, strategically placed camera angles go beyond simply what the other coffeehouse patrons would be able to see. Simply going out in public can make you a target for invasive photographers.

Reddit has attempted to ban Creepshots, but new iterations of the subreddit have come back—first as CreepSquad and even (apparently) as a fashion critique reddit.

2. Is Anyone Up? exposes bodies and ruins lives

One of the most controversial sites on the web, Is Anyone Up? specialized in posting nude pictures of men and women along with their real names and Facebook profiles. Ex-beaus often sent in pics of their former lovers, exposing them and their bodies to the World Wide Web. The implications this site could have on one’s career, relationships, and mental health were quite large. The site became the bane of anti-bullying groups, who would later pay the site’s creator to shut down the page.

While a huge invasion of privacy, some attributed the site’s success to how it made nude pictures “real” by showing the unsuspecting “models” in their sexual and non-sexual states. Some even think it was within Hunter Moore’s rights to express his notion of human sexuality by posting these photos of others. This is a prime example of how privacy rights can come into conflict with claims of free expression.

3. Predditors attempt to combat Creepshots

It seems brilliant: The creation of a tumblr called Predditors that identifies the men on Reddit who take creepy photos of non-consenting women. Posting their information is a surefire way to stop them, right?

At first glance, what may seem like an amazing means of revenge may be troubling. While Predditors attempts to do much legwork to ensure that they are accurate, there are disturbing implications should someone on the site be misidentified. While these guys who post creepshots are doing a horrible thing, outing them may not be sufficient to stop their misdeeds and could even be taken as acceptance of a lower standard for Internet privacy expectations.

4. Do not track? Do not care

Tracking is big business, with whole companies solely devoted to providing targeted advertising based on a user’s site history. It can often be a creepy experience to see ads for Calvin Klein after searching through underwear sales on a department store website. In its new iteration of Internet Explorer, Microsoft made sending “Do Not Track” signals more than just an option—it was the default setting on the browser.

While privacy advocates applauded Microsoft for the move, web advertisers were unhappy. Ultimately, companies decided that they would simply ignore these signals. After appearing to be a successful tool for consumers looking for a little more privacy, this exercise in web negotiations shows that tracking is not going away any time soon.

5. Queer users outed via Facebook

While Facebook offers its users many privacy settings, not all users have taken to making sure that Grandma doesn’t see the photos of you with a Solo cup. In fact, Facebook has become a new way that many queer people have been outed to friends and family. Simply getting added to a group can be seen by all one’s friends (depending on privacy settings), which leaves one open to someone getting included in an LGBT-related group and having that posted on their News Feed for Facebook friends (even non-knowing family members) to see. According to the recently Wall Street Journal article on this trend, Facebook is working with GLAD to offer special guidance to LGBT users.

Facebook isn’t the only site to come under scrutiny for potential outings. Netflix was sued in 2009 for releasing data on viewing habits that could potentially identify users as LGBT. These stories show just how much the digital era has changed the ability for young queer individuals to maintain privacy during the coming out process.

6. Nude pictures stolen off a phone by Verizon employee

When we get a new phone, most of us thinking nothing of handing over our old phones for the data transfer process. Even though our phones contain some of our most personal data, we think that cell carriers have to be honest folk, right? Unfortunately, not every employee respects the sanctity of one’s cell phone privacy. Just this past week, employees were caught stealing nude pictures off of a cell phone that they were doing a data transfer on.


What makes this story super scary is that we cannot avoid handing over our phones (and, with them, our sensitive data) when our phones break. In the smartphone era in which we practically have our entire lives on our devices, we ultimately just have to put our trust in someone and hope that instances like this are rarities.

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