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When Someone Goes All Crazy on You and Spams Your Online Profile With Nastiness

Last week I discussed the concept of the “digital tattoo” and how our online footprint can have lasting effects—for better or worse. Well, teens and others who were liberal with their use of Snapchat may be scrambling today as news comes out that the app’s 10 seconds-or-less deletion feature may be saving photos directly on the user’s phone. Uh-oh. Here’s what KSL.com in Utah is reporting:

Orem-based firm Decipher Forensics said it has derived a method to extract the supposedly no-longer-viewable images and pass them on to parents, lawyers and law enforcement.

"The actual app is even saving the picture," said Richard Hickman, a digital forensics examiner. "They claim that it's deleted, and it's not even deleted. It's actually saved on the phone."

Here’s Snapchat’s response.

As a colleague and I discussed earlier today, we’re just glad this technology wasn’t around when we were in high school and college. For some, there could be lasting effects from uploading risqué photos or posting compromising personal information.

Unfortunately, sometimes posting compromising information isn’t up to the user. Yesterday, I came across this story of a 29 year-old who is continuously haunted by his ex-girlfriend online—to the point where he’s having trouble getting a job. Here’s what the Today Show reported:

“Lee David Clayworth, 35, met Lee Ching Yan, 29, while he was teaching at an international school in Malaysia. They began casually dating in mid-2010, said Clayworth, who called it quits by December. ‘I decided to go my own way,’ he told TODAY, describing a relationship that at times ‘wasn't the healthiest.’ Unfortunately, he said, the dumping ‘didn't go down so well with her.’

After their breakup, Yan allegedly broke in and stole Clayworth’s laptop and teacher portfolio. Clayworth’s e-mail and Skype accounts were hacked. And this started happening:

“Personal photos which he'd stored on his laptop started appearing, along with his full name and a variety of crude claims. By cramming the Internet with these publicly viewable posts, Yan managed to make it so that anyone searching for his name would immediately see all of the nastiness.”

Clayworth even got a court order from Malaysia to stop the harassment. But Yan remains elusive. And now Clayworth says he can’t get a job and blames it on her online onslaught.

His attempts to have Google, Bing and other websites remove the damaging data have gone unanswered.

Or what about all the cases we hear of ex-boyfriends posting compromising photos of women to various revenge porn sites? Ars Technica recently reported on a lawsuit filed by a woman who said an ex-boyfriend posted nude photos of her on such sites.

The harm and embarrassment from these experiences is tough to quantify. But finding legal and technical means of redress is complicated. Is the web host liable? Should search engines filter out these types of posts? If so, how?

It reminds me of the difficulties of implementing the Right to be Forgotten. It’s been reported that its implementation would be a technical nightmare. And what about the First Amendment and other issues of free speech? Sure, sometimes we make mistakes earlier in life, but what if it has bearing on our current endeavors? If someone’s running for office now, but participated in fraud earlier in life, it behooves the public to know.

But really, who wants to know that an ex-girlfriend is mad at her former spouse and has released pictures of his…well, in that case, maybe the Right to be Forgotten can work in everyone’s favor…

photo credit: twenty_questions via photopin cc

Written By

Jedidiah Bracy, CIPP/E, CIPP/US


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  • Annie C. Bai May 21, 2013

    The scary thing is that this can happen even if you didn't dump someone or do anything wrong. We are all vulnerable to the craziness of one other person! What do you think about all the young people who are haunted by their own missteps or casual jibber-jabber on social media? I wrote a piece for our local online paper to raise awareness on this: "Teens Need an Internet Eraser." http://bedford.patch.com/groups/annie-c-bais-blog/p/teens-need-an-internet-eraser


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