Long back in 2005 when I was newly introduced to a very popular social media “orkut”, I proudly showed off my profile with my own picture which was clicked during a family wedding. Internet communication technology was new to India and we women were regularly being targeted because of the easy availability of our presence. This was largely due to lack of security in the social media as well as internet. We did not have two step verification for Gmail; Yahoo chat messenger, which was extremely popular during those days, almost made everyone’s personal information that were uploaded for the website, available to anyone who wanted access the user. It was during that period that I learnt about cloning of profiles which were made to harass individuals, especially women. The profiles may not be hacked, may neither be directly accessed by way of sending friends’ request; but the profile pictures may be downloaded and a new profile may be created with the available profile picture and profile information. Way back in 2006-7 I already had several women victims who contacted me for help and guidance. Almost all of them had common problem : harassment by way of creation of fake avatars. I have been part of the feminist movement which vehemently protested making women as ‘sex object’ on internet. Indeed women are made as ‘sex objects’ and they are regularly targeted by misogynists, perverts and online traffickers who may selectively pick up women and girls by seeing their profiles, profile pictures and shadowing their online activities.
Let me go back to my own experiences where I received the first harassing comment (which was not stalking, neither resulted due to hacking) which was plainly nothing but ‘bullying’. My first profile picture in Orkut received a remark which mocked at my supposedly ‘over made-up face’ and ‘blood red lipstick’. I knew this was just the beginning and if reciprocated, the bully may be extremely provoked to reply back. But this was not the first and last incident. I have received various negative comments, I have had my own period of being victim of a female stalker who monitored me and did send defamatory mails about me to my husband and again I had noticed several attempts to open Facebook accounts with my name and email ids. The later was detected and prevented by me because I never neglect the security messages sent by websites in my mails.
In my research I have seen that often the police and lawyers refuse to help the women victims and start the blame game. This is because they may not be aware of the mechanism to help and counsel the victims. In my opinion, websites must also be made responsible for third party victimization of women especially when the genuine reports of violation fail to move the websites. However, the websites concerned, may constantly develop safety policy guidelines for users to make the users take self prevention mechanisms. I have been part of Facebook women safety program for quite some times now. I continue to demand for more liability on the part of the websites especially for women and this time my concern was safety of profile pictures of women. I was extremely happy to see the developments in the security and policies of Facebook which was introduced in India on 22ndJune, 2017: ‘The profile picture guard’. Every woman must avail this opportunity to safeguard their profile picture since this is the most chosen target of all the images that may be uploaded by a user. The step by step guide to how to use this ‘guard’ is explained by Facebook team @ https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/06/giving-people-more-control-over-their-facebook-profile-picture/
However, I understand that it is not the women only, but children are also extremely vulnerable targets of sexual predators. Men are neither excluded. All users must use this facility and it may definitely help to reduce ‘image stealing’ for various malicious purposes including morphing, hacking and creation of fake avatars. But we need to understand that is not the ultimate answer to prevent revenge porn cases. While image of an individual may be saved because Facebook may detect the particular stolen image easily after receiving the report, there is a still remains a lacuna for other photographs which are in the personal albums. We must also note that the website will not suomotu take action for the cloned or stolen images. The victim must report the profile and the concerned profile picture along with the “shielded picture” as evidence.
Its nonetheless a big step in the history of cyber security for women and I congratulate Facebook for taking this initiative. But again, ……… accidents do happen and we need to be stronger to recover. Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2017), “The Facebook way of saving “face” : The profile picture guard by Facebook” 23rd June, 2017, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com
CYBER CRIME AGAINST WOMEN BY DEBARATI HALDER, PH.D
Every year October brings in nice surprises: the weather changes, festive season starts and women feel more encouraged to stay fit to look good during the festive season. This enthusiasm makes one eager to do lots of outdoor activities and showcase the same in their social media profile cover pictures or profile pictures which would gradually become an identification mark for the profile owner; for example, I got to see beautiful nature photography, painting exhibitions, festive photos in numerous Facebook profiles, which were further shared by other specialised social media profiles meant exclusively for photography or for online painting exhibitions. Nonetheless, these pictures may include human faces including the profile owners in their finest attires. Needless to say, cover photos or profile photos do provide a glimpse of what the user wishes to showcase to the world; I myself made a cover photo for myself which has my convocation photograph where I was receiving my Ph.d Degree from the hands of the Hon’ble Chief justice of India. Well, this is the age of “sharing and viewing” and those who have social media profiles should expect minimum privacy when it comes to sharing their lives with their virtual friends. But does that mean that when the social media platform does not guarantee any privacy, our pictures or contents really become public properties? Even though there are many research papers and works are available on this issue, I thought to contribute my own thought as well.
As we all know, any social media is duty bound to provide privacy rights to the users. But at the same time, no service provider would actually allow a user to lock everything for him/herself. This defies the ultimate purpose of the social media, i.e. to connect and reconnect people. Hence every user is given options to choose privacy set-ups that a social media channel can offer. This includes self exposure, exposure of friends and exposure of others (who are not listed as ‘friends’ of the profile owner) through one user in various levels. The most sensitive part of such exposure is definitely the photographs. When a user uploads a picture (whether a nature photography or a picture containing human images), to his social media profile, it is generally expected that he owns the photograph; very technically, he has copyright over it; but not always! There are numerous instances of ‘possessing’ over other’s photograph and using as well as misusing it through one’s social media profile. I myself got to see many such cases which unfortunately involved creation of “Fake Avatars” (See Halder Debarati,Examining the Scope of IndecentRepresentation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986 in the Light ofCyberVictimization of Women in India (May25, 2013). National Law School Journal,Vol. 11, 2013, pp. 188-218 . Availableat SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2270061) of women with ‘possessed’ pictures. But there are instances when photos of profile owners have been ‘stolen’ and showcased in other’s profiles and such photo possessing does not actually intend to harm the reputation of the actual photo owner. This happens especially when the photograph is exhibited in open access platforms like the ‘cover photo’ of Facebook, or photo albums made intentionally open for public in either Facebook or Twitter.
It needs to be understood that social media impliedly enters into a contract where it becomes duty bound to respect a user’s copy right. This is evident from not only the Terms that any social media asks a user to go through, but also from the report option where you would get to see a small note at the bottom “is this your intellectual property”? In India such sorts of mischievous activities are mostly regulated by the Copy Right Act, 1957 (which has been further amended in 2012). But usage of this law for social media photo right infringement is extremely rare. The reason could be that this Act is mostly used when the intellectual property infringement involves loss of profit. However, I have seen many people get confused as to whether they can really claim their intellectual property right when the picture is showcased in open access platforms of social media and it had been ‘stolen’. I ask ‘why not’? But I am very much aware that to prove a claim, a victim may have to run out of her patience especially when the social media itself may ask for the proof to show that the photograph was originally owned by the victim. But still then, it may prove worth fighting for and sharing the experience as this will actually benefit not only the intellectual property researchers, but netizens in general.
Do let me know your views.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2013), “Whose photo is it When you have a “cover photo” ?
Couple of day’s back I came through a research which showed that women are more attracted to social networking through popular social media like the Facebook or Twitter than men (See http://in.lifestyle.yahoo.com/women-more-attracted-facebook-twitter-men-study-105041750.html). Being a woman myself, I cannot wholeheartedly agree with this research as I have seen many men *also* have taken likings for social networking too. But this research made it once again crystal clear: women are vulnerable in the net. In this era of social media, women do not click in the Facebook or Twitter just as a leisure activity only. I see these Medias as mines of informations; and I am sure many women like me visit these ‘mines’ for gathering useful informations, which are essential for home maintenance, baby care to safe e-banking, online shopping, part time or full time jobs from home etc. Where do we find these mines? Anywhere and everywhere if you have your 6th sense ready for gaining the informations. I look specifically for the ‘groups’ and ‘trending topics’ for gathering informations, which in very sophisticated term, can also be called as ‘data mining’.
But women of my genre, beware!
All is not safe when you switch on your Facebook account with your personal informations and albums open to your friends. In a ‘group,’ in the Facebook, there are numbers of privacy issues which may bother members, especially women members; let me detail them here:
1. If one member tags you or your photo, your well protected informations, status updates and even the entire album can be pulled out from your profile. Do not feel secured if you have made your informations available for your friends and not for the public. You may never know, but your friend’s friends can also view your ‘secrets’ meant only for your friends.
2.A group expands by snow balling its members through existing members. So if any one of the members mistakenly adds any unwanted individual, the security of the other members may be jeopardized.
3.You may get introduced to many likeminded members in a group, who may be interested in knowing you more closely. But be careful. Once an individual sends a friend’s request, he/she may be able to see the status updates and the new addings to the album if they are not ‘protected’; this is possible even when the ‘friend’s request’ is in the ‘pending’ status. Hence if you do not wish to share anything with him/her, immediately close your door to him/her.
4.Remember if this is not a closed group, your contributions to the group may be visible in the world wide web if someone searches for your name.
These are but some of my own findings from my own experiences in the Facebook. But women, don’t withdraw yourself. There are more ‘safety pins’ available for protecting the loop holes.
ØFacebook offers few types of friend’s category, namely; acquaintances, friends and close friends. It falls upon you to categorize your ‘friends’ for a better networking.
ØWhen it is an open group, be careful to choose your words for contribution.
ØBe watchful; if you are tagged without your permission, ‘de-tag’ yourself .
ØTake immediate decision regarding friend’s requests. Pending requests may add more privacy risks.
ØIf you are a member in a group which allows snow balling, be sure to add known and reliable friends. This is will make you a safety valve in your own group.
At the end, let your friends be aware of the positive side of social networking. Being a social species, no human beings are fallible. But remember, we are humans and a little bit of awareness would definitely make our lives in the well webbed world wonderful.
Please Note: Do not violate copyright of this blog. If you would like to use informations provided in this blog for your own assignment/writeup/project/blog/article, please cite it as “Halder D. (2012), “Women, be careful when you join groups in Facebook”, 6th September,2012, published in http://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/