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Tackling revenge porn Hayley Forrest
15 April 2016

Ghostface

Like all 90’s kids, my worst nightmare used to be that I’d forget to save my level progress in Zool. It’s safe to say that my perception has changed since then.

Mega-Man 5 did not prepare me for the proliferation of smart-phones, smart-watches and fridges with more RAM than the first NASA missions.  And now there’s an online phenomenon called “revenge porn”.

What is revenge porn?

Revenge porn is a term used when a person shares intimate images of someone without their permission. It is usually, but not always, to shame the individual captured in the images.

In my tweens, grandad sneakily showed me a photograph of nana that he’d carried with him in the Korean War. She wore a two-piece bathing suit, risqué at the time but tame by today’s standards. I suspect she would have been mortified had she known he’d shown it to me. 

Regardless of your personal views, consent should be crucial. If you are thinking of sharing a racy personal image you’ve been entrusted with, please ask for permission first. If it helps you to remember this step, try imagining the photo is of your nana.

Section 56 of the Privacy Act says that personal information collected by individuals (not agencies) relating solely to domestic affairs, is excluded from the Act’s provisions.

Harmful digital communications

But the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 (HDCA) has changed this section. The personal affairs exemption ceases to apply if the information in question would be highly offensive to an ordinary, reasonable person. We’ve blogged about the HDCA before.

My nana was certainly an ordinary, reasonable person - but I cannot say for certain where her threshold for “highly offensive” would be - or whether other reasonable people would necessarily agree with her. 

Our office does not have the power to stop individuals from publishing and distributing images they have in their possession, or to force individuals to make amends if they decide to do so. We work by investigating complaints made to us and by trying to get parties to come to an agreed resolution.

But otherwise, if you think you are the victim of revenge porn, there are other things you can do about it.

Get advice

Netsafe is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that works to educate and help people about using the internet safely. Its expert team may be able to suggest ways to help you control how far your image spreads within the internet.

Contact the host platform

Many internet search engines are responding to these incidents, and taking steps to try and slow the spread and availability of revenge porn. If you find an intimate image of yourself online without your consent, contact them as soon as possible. Remember that the sooner you do this, the more likely you’ll be able to prevent further disclosure.

For example, Microsoft has launched a service where people can report this type of content and ask for it to be removed from Bing, OneDrive and Xbox Live search results. Google has a similar service, where people can ask it to remove sensitive personal information from its search results.  Most social media sites have also produced ways to contact them about incidents like these. For example, you can report abusive content to Facebook and also to Snapchat.

Go to the Police

The New Zealand Police have included harassment in its examples of “electronic crime”. Depending on the circumstances, it may be that Police could assist you. If you believe you are being harassed, you can contact your local police station to discuss the situation.

Prevention is the best protection

As in most situations, the best protection is prevention. If you are considering taking and sharing some racy snaps of yourself, think about the following:

  • Ask yourself how you would feel if the image ended up on the internet 
  • Be clear with the intended recipient about your expectations.
  • If you decide you still want to make an image, consider ways you can mitigate the risk of being identified should the image escape your control. 
  • Think about how you intend to store the image and for how long - and learn as much as possible about the security options available. Information stored in the cloud can be hacked. Take any steps you can to reduce these risks as much as possible by deleting images and by keeping your anti-virus protection up to date. 

And if you have any questions about the Privacy Act, contact us by calling 0800 803 909.

Image credit: Ghostface via Wikipedia.

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  • Where were you all these years when porn as flooded the internet. Is your agency a toothless old lion that cannot pounce on these perpetrators who have gone to far?

    Posted by Chipepo E.Lwele, 01/05/2016 9:02pm (18 months ago)

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    The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

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The aim of the Office of Privacy Commissioner’s blog is to provide a space for people to interact with the content posted. We reserve the right to moderate all comments. We will not publish any content that is abusive, defamatory or is obviously commercial. We ask for your email address so that we can contact you if necessary to clarify your comment. Please be respectful of authors and others leaving comments.

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