In a somewhat strange proposal, Facebook wants you to send it sexually explicit photos of yourself to prevent revenge porn.
“It’s demeaning and devastating when someone’s intimate images are shared without their permission, and we want to do everything we can to help victims of this abuse. We’re now partnering with safety organizations on a way for people to securely submit photos they fear will be shared without their consent so we can block them from being uploaded to Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger.”
The idea was already trialed in Australia and is being rolled out in the UK this week. Facebook says that the US and Canada also will be included in the trial program, which goes something like this:
• If you find a revenge photo of yourself on the internet, then you can send a copy of it to Facebook.
• The picture will be reviewed by “one of a handful of specifically trained members of our Community Operations Safety Team”. This team member will create a unique fingerprint of the photo known as a hash.
• This hash is stored in a database. If anyone else uploads the same image to Facebook, Instagram and Messenger (i.e., an image that has the same unique hash “fingerprint”) then it will be recognized and automatically removed.
Users can also pro-actively send photos they dread being posted as revenge porn.
The idea sounds reasonable at the beginning but has two significant issues.
It is Unconvincing
The data from Australia’s trials has not been publicized yet, but Facebook stresses similar schemes have had success at checking the spread of terrorist propaganda and child abuse images.
The problem lies in the fact that hashes are very particular to the data being hashed. Guardian reports the hashes are good enough not to “get fooled by simple alterations such as color tweaks, watermarks or crops.” But there are doubts.
The fact that even the tiniest change to the input data will create a non-identical hash is the cornerstone of internet security: hashes are used to ensure the integrity and authentication of data.
Even if true, it would still be quite easy to modify an image adequately to “fool” Facebook’s hash detection software. There are numerous combinations of changes that could render hashing ineffective.
Other problems include distribution as by the time you discover revenge porn of yourself on the internet; it will probably have been shared already ruining your life.
The proactive uploading of images can work if you have possession of the comprising images. But in most revenge porn scenarios, this just isn’t the case.
Facebook Scandal! Remind You of Something?
Facebook’s total business model is based around finding as much information as it can about you to target even more personalized ads at you.
We are talking about a company that was recently in the news for a privacy disaster and this week a new court summoning for reading messages, tracking peoples’ location, and accessing photos on phones. The gathering of data from users without their consent is something well documented, but it is the collection of data about people who have never signed up to Facebook that make it outright creepy.
This scheme is contradictory in itself because of what Facebook is!
If you have concerns about or have been a victim of revenge porn, then you should contact an organization such as one of those listed below:
• National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) (US)
• Revenge Porn Helpline (UK)
• Office of the eSafety Commissioner (Australia)
• YWCA Canada(Canada)