Privacy Basics In the Era of Facebook and Revenge Porn

May 02 at 10am

By Violet Blue

Google’s Eric Schmidt once said, “If you have something you don’t want anyone to know, then maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Actor and tech investor Ashton Kutcher and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg have each said that if you’re not doing anything “wrong” then you don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to losing your privacy. That’s easy – and profitable – for them to say.

Filthy-rich celebrities are more able than the rest of us to hide things they consider private or embarrassing. They can afford it. Not only that, but they're the ones who are wrong. Why, exactly, does Ashton Kutcher get to decide that whatever I’m doing online is "wrong" just because I don't want the whole world to know about it? Like laughably antiquated notions about “female hysteria” and women having to choose between a job and a family, these people are trafficking in beliefs from a bygone era.

How can guys like Kutcher, Schmidt, and Zuckerberg think like this? While us girls might be (sadly) used to men trying to make us feel ashamed when we make boundaries, these men sound completely crazy when they spout off about privacy.

There’s a Creepy Steve in every café, on every bus, possibly even in your friend circle. If Creepy Steve picks up your phone, iPad, Kindle, or sits down at your computer when you go pee and you didn’t lock it, he has access to any account you left open.

Part of the problem is that they don’t understand what we experience every day: what “target” and “non-target” status is. The most important thing missing from modern privacy discussions is the fact that there is a critical difference in the way men and women perceive privacy – because men don’t bear target status.

That's why I wrote The Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy, choosing to speak to the biggest targets of online abuse (women and LGBT people) because we're the hardest to protect.

Telling us to stop sharing isn't the answer, and no one has to give up Facebook or get off the Internet. We just need to be smarter about how we share, and who we share with. Look: you get in a car, you put on a seat belt. If we think about protecting ourselves like this, we'll all be able to stop worrying and start loving the Internet again. Here are six tips to get you started. 

1.

View your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus profiles as someone else to make sure you understand what other people can see. Then adjust the privacy settings accordingly. Set aside an hour every three months to do a privacy check-up. Since Facebook likes to change and screw with your privacy settings often, you might be revealing something you regret without even realizing it. Also make sure you limit how much these companies know about you, and how much they can share with their advertisers about you. When it comes to your personal information, they'll get away with anything (and everything) they can unless you rein them in.

2.

Tape over your webcam so malicious hackers can't take photos or video of you without your consent. A year before Cassidy Wolf was crowned Miss Teen USA 2013, a guy in her high school hacked into the webcam and took photos of her. She found out when he got into her social media accounts and tried to extort her: she was one of 12 girls he had taken photos of and threatened for cash. You can make your camera worthless – but still use it when you choose – by keeping it taped up. Post­Its have a gentle adhesive on them, and are easy to replace. 

3.

Use different email addresses for different online accounts (they can forward to your real address). This way if a website gets hacked or a stalker wants to publish your info, malicious people have one less "real" piece of information about you. 

4.

Activate the password lock on your phone, laptop, and tablet. There’s a Creepy Steve in every café, on every bus, possibly even in your friend circle. If Creepy Steve picks up your phone, iPad, Kindle, or sits down at your computer when you go pee and you didn’t lock it, he has access to any account you left open — which could expose your email, social security number, or credit card number. Don't let your computer save passwords for critical sites. 

5.

Never sign in on someone else’s phone, computer, or tablet. If you friend's computer or phone has been hacked or infected, your password and personal communication can be recorded (most people don't know when their computer has been hacked and their passwords are being stolen until it's too late). Also, you run the risk of forgetting to sign out.

6.

Never share anything that reveals or can be traced your home address. That includes photos – turn off that location tagging!

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