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The Birds and the Bees of Practicing Safe Digital Love

photo credit: emrank via photopin cc
photo credit: emrank via photopin cc

In the wake of the nude Jennifer Lawrence pictures and how her privacy was grossly violated, I’m posting some common strategies for protecting yourself (and the people we support) from invasions of privacy.  

It does involve some talking about digital sexy times in a PG-13 way.  Nothing in this post is a workplace hazard but if I’ve already made you uncomfortable, avert your eyes, close the tab and return next week.

Before we get started, read the article Not Safe for Not Working On.  It’ll take about 15 minutes but it’s worth it.  What I’m going to share is a microcosm of the excellent good sense in that article.

After running the gamut of the traditional birds and the bee’s talk with a person you support, it’s time to have the digital one.  Supports are often in the tricky position of helping people navigate the minefield that is today’s dating suburban jungle.  Practicing safe digital love is part of that necessary but awkward conversation.

Take a deep breath and embrace the following:

People use communication technologies for sexy times.  Deal with it.  -Dan Kaminsky

Digital abstinence works.  BUT it’s not widely practiced or very popular.  Therefore it works more in theory than in practice.  If that’s the only option presented, odds are people are going to run into trouble.  Come prepared with more than the phrase, “Don’t do it.” when prepping for this conversation with a person supported.

If a person you support is sexually active, owns a cell phone or has access to the internet; they’re likely in need of some digital safe love advice.

To start:

Do use private or incognito mode for personal browsing.

So little is private in the life of a person receiving 24/7 supports.  If they aren’t already using ‘incognito or private mode’ on their browser, make sure they know about it.  This doesn’t protect them from malicious spyware, downloading pitfalls, etc. but it does mean that if they were looking at an adult website, you won’t see it in the search suggestions when using the same device.

Maintaining privacy, dignity, and respect is cool 🙂

Do not use Cloud based technology for the 2% of digital information they can’t afford to reveal.

Cloud based technologies are vulnerable to hacks for a variety of reasons.  This is where Jennifer Lawrence went wrong.  She trusted her Cloud.  Do not trust the Cloud.  

Actually don’t trust any social media network or similar web options for communicating sensitive information unless you and the person you support have researched them first.  It’s very important to talk with them about the potential risks of what they post into any networked environment.

Like most people, 98% of the stuff the person you support has they probably don’t care too much about.  They would post it on Facebook anyway.  That can be a good place to start the conversation, “Would this be okay on Facebook?”

Common 2% content would be  contacts, racy photos, and passwords.  Helping a person keep the 2% separate from the 98% puts them miles ahead.  It helps to define what the 2% is and that it shouldn’t be in places that can be potentially hacked.  Support them to have a safe place, off the internet, to store their information; like a portable external hard drive.  They aren’t that expensive and can be physically disconnected from the internet.

Speaking of passwords:

The truth about passwords.

Think of passwords like the lock’s we had on our high school locker’s back in the day.  The privacy it gave us was mostly fictional.  It was irrelevant to the school faculty, the space was technically rented, prone to being searched, and the overall quality of our lock’s sucked to begin with.  Only people with extremely poor decision making skills kept contraband in their locker.

The above is true of the vast majority of people with password protected information.  If a person you supports does protect sensitive information with a password, this is some good advice on building a secure but memorable password.  And it’s not encrypted!

Those high school lock’s of yore did their job, it kept most people out of our space.  Just not the determined/privileged few.  Passwords are still worthwhile but don’t let them be the only security measure a person uses.

Organizations like IBEX do a lot to protect your information from outside malicious hacks like those discussed in Not Safe for Not Working On.  Many other’s, like banks similarly protect their clients from aggressive hacks.  That said, coach the person you support on changing their password regularly, not sharing it with others, and using a variety of passwords across devices.  This can be challenging but with the password trick I’ve linked above, it’s possible.

Beware of Snapchat.

Snapchat is a wildly popular app that allows people to send encrypted content that will delete itself.  Food for thought?  The content sent via Snapchat isn’t encrypted for Snapchat.  They can see everything anyone has ever sent.  This isn’t as widely known as it should be.  Make sure that if a person does use Snapchat they know about this.  Or better yet…

Try Wickr instead.

A highly recommended messenger app is Wickr.  It does all the same stuff that Snapchat does except in the most awesome way possible.

Research is your support ally.  App’s can be a great solution for privacy issues.  People can use them for password vaults and instant messaging.  Help the person you support research the option that is right for them.

What resources do you guys use?  In the words of Morgan Freeman, good luck!

P.S.  Did you see the #I’mnotlookingcampaign for Jennifer Lawrence and the other celebrities that got hacked?  


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  1. also, you can still use the cloud, without trusting the cloud. Encryption software is available for everything now. There is likely information you have that you don’t want revealed (like anything you might want to keep in digital form that can open you up for identity theft, for another example) that you probably want backed up. Encrypt it first, so you don’t have to trust your service to be unhackable, and you don’t have to trust yourself to be infallable with your chain of signed up services. Think about encryption that you can control when deciding on technologies to use. Even the NSA has a hard time with commonly available encryption.

  2. Two more password tips from someone that works in the industry: Use different passwords for different services, not just different devices. If you’ve used the same email and password for a few services and one gets released through no fault of your own, it’s common for the password list to be released, then tried against many other services. And if you want any hope of recovering that comprimised account, I sure hope you haven’t used the same password on that email address you used to sign up for that service. I have no affiliation with Last Pass, but it sure solves a lot of that “unique password per service” problem without having to remember it all.