It’s refreshing to see Facebook take action on a problem that is unintentionally spread on its platform — but it’s not enough.

Facebook recently announced a pilot program that it’s trying with Australian users. It’s a test for addressing revenge porn that has raised more than a few eyebrows. People are encouraged to send nude photos to themselves in Facebook’s Messenger app to keep from having those images repurposed as revenge porn. Incidentally, Facebook is also attempting to tighten up security on the platform by asking people to upload selfies.

On the one hand, it’s admirable that a company with the reach, scale and technical sophistication of Facebook is trying to address sticky problems that are harming people all over the world. It’s refreshing to see Facebook take actions and responsibility to address revenge porn in particular — a problem that is unintentionally spread on its platform.

On the other hand, Facebook’s tactics raise many more red flags on the topics of privacy, discretion and the company’s own self-awareness and credibility. If Facebook is truly committed to shoring up security and fighting revenge porn, it can do much more to protect revenge porn victims (90 percent of whom are women) from this crime.

Today’s social media platforms provide instantaneous, free and global reach to anyone who wants to exact harm on someone else by publicly humiliating them. The impact and fallout on victims of revenge porn is long-lasting and costly. Research from an End Revenge Porn Campaign showed that 51 percent of revenge porn victims have suicidal thoughts.

As Facebook hammers out its security and revenge porn strategy, here are five issues it should consider:

A worker from Facebook’s Community Operations Team is going to what?

Look at your nude photo. This raises the question, what gender is the person evaluating the photo and will this task feed an existing perversion (because let’s face it, most tech workers are male engineers who haven’t been getting the best rep lately) or will it be a punitive task for the analyst “fingerprinting” the image? Shouldn’t Facebook at least provide additional detail about who will be reviewing the nudes Facebook is asking users to submit?

Is anyone going to actually upload nudes to Messenger?

The whole thing about having nude photos is not wanting other people to know (except maybe a special someone or two) that you have them. People want to hide their nudes! Does Facebook actually think that people are going to willingly share their intimate photos to be evaluated by a nameless worker on its “Community Operations” team? What fail-safe measures has Facebook put in place to ensure that their users’ nude photos will be protected upon submission to Messenger?

Doesn’t this go against everything we were ever taught about protecting your online privacy?

In one word, yes. The first rule of protecting your online privacy is being careful about what you post on Facebook. Is Facebook in denial about how people use its service to stalk others? Is it being naive about its own vulnerability to future hacks and transgressions by employees?

Do people even trust Facebook’s service?

As a matter of fact, they don’t. This was The Verge’s conclusion when it released a survey of 1,500 people in the U.S.

  • Only 5 percent said that Facebook accounts were safe from hacks.
  • Facebook was the tech service least likely to be recommended — and was least popular — among Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Twitter.
  • The top reasons cited for abstaining among people who don’t use Facebook: Not wanting to share on Facebook, being distrustful of the company and feeling that the product invades people’s privacy.

What happens when Messenger or Facebook’s servers are hacked?

Equifax, Yahoo and Uber are just a few high-profile companies that have suffered breaches. Yet these three companies took months (and in some cases years) to notify their customers that a breach occurred. If someone’s Messenger app or Facebook’s own servers are hacked and peoples’ nudes have been stored, there could be much more trouble afoot. How long would Facebook wait to inform users of an attack? Are people going to risk sharing their identities and most intimate photos if they could be sold or posted by hackers? If a hack occurred, would Facebook willingly pay for users’ professional psychological services and personal fallout?

The stakes are too high for people to willingly abide by Facebook’s motto “move fast and break things.” Facebook has the brains, manpower and resources to revisit and undertake a more aggressive stance that protects victims from attacks on its platform. Instead of tuning its algorithms to get people to remain on its platform, Facebook needs to demonstrate leadership. With a footprint of close to two billion users, it’s time to acknowledge that it has an obligation for the social and cultural impact its platform is enabling. Facebook needs to exact meaningful changes to place people’s privacy and welfare above its profits.

Until it does, I hope that Australians will pass up Facebook’s “send us your naked pictures” test. They should consider keeping sensitive photos locked down with a secure photo storage service that’s encrypted and has a reputation for protecting people’s personal privacy.

Legislation will help, but it’s sure to be late to the party. A bipartisan bill was recently introduced to make revenge porn a federal criminal offense. As of late, legislators are moving to regulate areas that social network giants have ignored and discounted; and outlawing revenge porn is definitely a step in the right direction.


Zouhair Belkoura is the co-founder and CEO of Keepsafe Software. He founded Keepsafe in 2012 to make privacy and security simple. His pieces on digital privacy have been published on Forbes, Huffington Post and Apple News. An engineer, entrepreneur and angel investor, Belkoura has a PhD in Electrical Engineering from TU Berlin. Reach him @zouhairb.


Recode – All Go to Source
Author: Zouhair Belkoura

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