Love, intimacy and sexual experiences may be hard to navigate even in times when there are no constraints. They are especially difficult when there is a pandemic and one is confined to one’s place of living. Fortunately, for some of us there are digital platforms to help us navigate these experiences.
Hidden Pockets and The Bachchao Project hosted a tweetchat on April 17, 2020, where we attempted to answer some questions asked around these interactions online. Here is a collection of our tweets in conversation:
Do you feel safe knowing your dating life might not be secure after all?
21 votes · Final results
Feeling safe by not feeling secure?
See new Tweets
Something I wrote about it a few years ago:
Sex, Lies and the Perils of Facebook Dating – EroTICs India Short of digital abstinence, is there a way to use the Internet’s liberating power to circumvent sexual and social taboos and still stay safe?
“The most difficult aspect to control, however, is the kind and volume of information shared. Would someone in the throes of passion, love or infatuation pause to think that the headers in her emails and the EXIF data from her selfies contain enough data that could be mined to get her location and personal details? The online medium often takes away inhibitions
“Finding love and sex on the Internet has always meant walking the razor’s edge between the joy of intimacy and running into harm. Short of digital abstinence, is there a way to use the Internet’s liberating power to circumvent sexual and social taboos and still stay safe?”
How important is consent when it comes to conversations on online dating and what does consent look like in online dating ?
Digital Consent as a subject is something we are still struggling with. We still get confused about what exactly amounts to a Yes.
Consent is still understood in black and white manner in the legal sense, but digital spaces makes it grey 🙂
Consent is a basic right. Everyone needs to feel safe regardless of the nature and age of the relationship.
Here is a short video by the Thames Valley Police on understanding consent:
Online platforms, be it dating app or a photo editing app, they #demand consent. If they ask consent to access my gallery, SMS, email ,etc and if I am not okay with just one of that, I will still be unable to use their service. So how is that even consent?
Temporary app permissions can be granted in Android 10. Otherwise the bouncer can be used on earlier versions to grant temporary permissions. It is paid.
How does one choose a platform to have a conversation ? What are the checks one can make while shifting platforms?
Choosing a platform for secure messaing, video calls etc can be tough, especially during the lockdowns. Not all of us have have equal access: internet speeds, bandwidth, devices with hardware capabilities and necessary software.
However, some basic rules:
- The user interface of the app/ platform should be usable for you and the person(s) you’re texting/ calling.
- It should have adjustable privacy settings & preferably support the option to not leave a trail, set a timer on the messages etc.
Avoid using private messages on social media websites for the purpose of intimate conversations and sexting. Have a conversation about choosing a platform that you and your partner(s) find usable & are comfortable with.
If you are starting to sext someone new, it is better to choose a messaging app that allows the use of handles/ nicknames instead of being tied to phone numbers or other personally identifiable information.
Telegram, Signal & Threema support timed messages. Some apps alert you if the recipient screencaps your messages. Signal allows for setting a “one-time viewing” option on images. (If you are old-school, go for Jabber.) Have a conversation with your partner(s) about not backing up or saving your messages, photos, nudes etc and deleting them.
I guess one chooses for convenience. but can we think about security while thinking about love or lust. tough one! @digitaldutta what say?
I always chose platforms for the fun aspect. I wanted more emojis, more interaction, but I am super scared of the fact that these conversations are getting recorded.
Do people find it easy to shift from one platform to another? How can we negotiate the process of shifting platforms ?
Shifting away from an app or platform that one has got comfortable with can be a pain. It is yet another app to manage on the phone. It takes up memory, screen space etc. Sometimes, we need to swallow a bitter pill to make sweet memories.
Ask these important questions to yourself & your partner while considering a shift:
- Would you choose to keep the texts & images or take them off the record?
- What would you want to share? The Internet is forever, and it is hard to get permanently deleted from it.
Do you think data accessibility is an issue, especially in a country like India, where not all cities and towns are well connected?
It is. And it affects the choices people make while navigating digital communication. Mobile Internet tariffs in India are among the lowest in the world. And affordable smartphones (USD 150 or less) have been available in India for nearly a decade.
However, affordable smartphones come with their own privacy issues.
Messaging apps such as WhatsApp are significantly faster on slower Internet connections than the privacy-centric apps, making people with connectivity issues and unreliable mobile networks gravitate towards the former.
with no one measuring access to internet across India, access to networks is a privilege
Also incredibly uneven when it comes to gender: we lag behind Pakistan and Bangladesh when it comes to women’s access to mobile phones.
What are the best practices while sharing photos or videos ? What are the tools one can use to share ?
“Sextortion” (blackmail over sexually explicit images typically obtained by stealing or shooting them without consent) & non-consensual pornography (commonly known by the misnomer revenge porn) are two of the biggest concerns when sharing intimate photos & videos.
While taking nudes, it is highly advisable to not photograph the face or identifying marks such as tattoos and scars. Even if one applies a filter to blur or pixellate these parts of the image, is it possible to reverse these filters.
Many of the phone camera apps also pick up metadata such as a timestamp & GPS coordinates and embed them the photos. Remove this metadata (EXIF data) before sending photos. Recommended Android app: ScrambledEXIF.
Also i-cloud when using iPhone because when you take a picture, it gets automatically uploaded on I cloud and maybe when someone hacked it when your nude pictures are in can access it
When using icloud, choose to only upload selected photos or videos to icloud Using external hard drive that can’t be hacked works too because it’s not connected to the #internet
I guess not to show the face? #DigitalPrivacy
One can obscure photos will applications like obscure cam
*ObscuraCam app by The Guardian Project. It allows for pixellating, redacting and cropping images easily. However, this app majorly affects image quality.
Also use email addresses created on proton mail to set up a messaging account because in case your nudes escape, they can’t be traced back to your name
You could also create temporary mail id from platforms like http://mailinator.com
List of secure messaging apps to play around with:
Telegram (Secret chat feature)
Turn off location services when you take the photos and turn off automatic uploads. You photo vault app to help store nudes and removes automatically from your photos feed on your phone Use end to end encryption apps too
Add passcode to your phone and encourage your sexting friend to do the same
Don’t use Facebook messenger, use timed message services such as Snapchat, private messaging like Telegram, wire or signal because image isn’t sent as download and also notifies if someone takes a screenshot of your conversation or image/s
Don’t have your face in the picture and hide tattoos or any natural mark on your body that identifies you
Additional Resources :
What video conferencing tools to use :
How to take private photos on signal :
When it comes to #digital privacy what are some of the resources that are helpful ?
The Motherboard Guide to Sexting Securely
Take back the tech
Safer Sisters Online Security Tips in GIFs
https://medium.com/codingrights/safersisters-online-security-tips-in-gifs-222589166ed8 For teens (by Planned Parenthood) https://plannedparenthood.org/learn/teens/bullying-safety-privacy/all-about-sexting https://plannedparenthood.org/learn/teens/bullying-safety-privacy/online-privacy-and-staying-safe
A personal story: Love in the time of cryptography
Safer nudes is available a printable zine: https://codingrights.org/send-nudes
From its official description: “…discussing post-porn aesthetics and strategies for combating gender inequalities in the web, it was thought to be more appealing to women and sexual minorities since they are more easily exposed to online haressment, by practices such as revenge “porn”, doxxing, cyberbulling, etc.”
Dirty Code is an interesting approach to sexting. Instead of sending or receiving an actual nude photo, it enables sexters to send/ receive a drawing of it: https://dirtycode.io
(While we are at it, here is a friendly reminder to never send an unsolicited dick pic even if it is a drawing of a dick pic.) #consent
Instead of being literal or graphic all the time, you could use GIFs and NSFW sticker packs (Signal & Telegram) to convey your mood. You can also make your own sticker packs easily using freely available vector illustrations of whatever floats your & your partner’s boat.
Encryption, use of TOR, use secure connection like VPN, use personal cloud storage because they are less likely to be targeted by hackers
I wrote this article for @Hidden_Pockets
Sticker packs as promised pastebin.com/yNnyAqsL
What are some of the laws that we should keep in mind that are helpful?
Do remember India has a legislation specific to Information Technology Act 2000, and we can reach various cyber cells across cities in times of crisis.
Any non-consensual sexual imagery is not porn. It is a crime. An awful one which results in lasting and damaging consequences.
Some sections in IT Act, specifically deal with violating the modesty of women in online spaces, and it can be used for instances like revenge porn.
Provisions exist both under the IT Act and the IPC to deal with them. However both substantively and procedurally more must be done to address it
There are provisions under the IT Act and the IPC as Apar mentioned. However, my work on online non-consensual imagery from many years ago largely indicates that is redressal and justice for victims are difficult, circuitous and protracted.
Social stigma, a lack of support from family and social circles, patriarchal attitudes towards sexual propriety and conduct, and the fear of harassment by the police prevent victims from doing so much as filing a basic police report:
Victims are often driven to suicide: (Unfortunate use of the term “revenge porn” here)
How can parents in India educate their children on online privacy given that
- Parents are not always the most aware about online privacy
- Children find it difficult to share their online experiences with parents ?
exactly! more resource by @PPact: