Staying Safe Online

Included in Chapter Seven of Connecting to Kink

Guarding Your Privacy Online

If you log onto any fetish or social media site, you are liable to see the following message (or something similar) on various profiles:

WARNING: Any institutions or individuals using this site or any of its associated sites for studies or projects, profit or nonprofit projects — You DO NOT have my permission to use any of my profile or pictures in any form or forum both current and future. You may not cut, copy, paste anything from/off my profile including photos, videos and/or writings in any way, shape or form. If you have or do, it will be considered a violation of my privacy and will be subject to legal ramifications.

Be aware this warning is meaningless. It’s not a legally binding statement. The legal document you signed, by accepting the TOS (terms of service) when setting up a profile on any site, trumps anything you post and probably says pretty much the opposite.

The most important thing to understand when creating an account on any website that is free (and even some that charge a fee) is that you’re not the consumer, you’re the product.

Now, on Facebook and other conventional social media sites, the most embarrassing thing anyone else might learn about you is somewhat limited by the restrictions the site has on what you can post.

But, sites like Fetlife and Collarspace have no such restrictions. And the product is no longer just your gossip and cute pictures of your pets. It’s your sex life.

I’ve Seen That Face Before

Unless you can afford being outed as a kinkster, don’t post naked pictures of yourself in bondage with whip marks on your ass if they also show your face, tattoos, piercings, or other identifiable body modifications recognizable to anyone else who might stumble across them … or go looking for them. Don’t use pictures that show identifiable backgrounds, or that you may have also uploaded to a conventional social media site or to a website connected with your legal name. Check the background. Can you read the certificate perhaps showing your legal name that you hang on your bedroom wall?

A website that requires you to log on offers nothing to make you or your identity safe. Don’t believe that no one can see your photographs unless they’re also logged in. And don’t believe any promises of privacy offered by a site, because they’re not accurate.

For one thing, anyone can create a free email account on any one of a dozen sites while providing no information that can be traced back to them. They can then use that email address to create an account on the site you think is protecting you from non-kinksters’ eyes.

Further, those photographs can be accessed without logging in. Fetish sites are often free or partially free. They don’t invest money in security that protects the content. And there’s no guarantee that if you post a photograph that you’ll ever be able to delete it. Even if it is removed from a site, it’s probably still in the cloud storage system used by that site and therefore recoverable by anyone who knows what they’re doing. People have had deleted, “private” photos they posted online used against them in court.

If the photo you posted was taken with your smartphone, chances are the file contains data about where and when it was taken and other information that can be used to identify you.

Combine all these security holes with facial recognition software (which can deliver matches even when years, facial hair, weight, and makeup change someone’s appearance) and you have a recipe for disaster. What would happen if your boss found the picture of you getting gang banged or the private detective hired by your ex who’s fighting you for custody of your children turned up a photograph of you hanging naked and upside down in bondage or a prospective employer discovered images of you whipping someone chained to a rack?

Online privacy is almost nonexistent. I’ve always said that you should never post anything online that you wouldn’t want your boss, your elderly grandmother, your worst enemy, and the IRS to see — or at least don’t post it if there’s any way it can be traced back to you.

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