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You Have the Right to Take (Nude) Photos — Now Here’s How to Protect Them

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The Internet and media outlets are still buzzing about the recent theft and release of a huge cache of private celebrity photos. Even the FBI is now involved. While bloggers and analysts debate who’s to blame and whether iCloud was breached, you might be more concerned about your own private photos and where they exist other than just on your digital device. Here are a few suggestions for keeping your photos safe.

First of all, in today’s world, there really is no guarantee of absolute privacy. If you really don’t want your naked pictures to appear on the Internet, the only real way to ensure that is to avoid taking naked photos in the first place. There are just too many ways that hackers can take advantage of technology gaps. But with that in mind, theft of private photos, even if those photos are saved on a shared server, is still theft. You have the right to take photos—nude, clothed, dancing really poorly, whatever you want—and save them.

Safeguarding your digital images doesn’t solve the problem of cyber crime in our connected culture, but it could make you feel better about living your life the way you want to live it.

Update Your Passwords, Use Two-Step Verification and Encrypt Everything

You can take photos. You can save photos. You can share photos. If you want to protect those photos, you have to tighten up your security. First, update all your passwords on devices, social sites and storage sites. And use better passwords. Next, the best way to protect photos you want to save on a cloud service is to make sure that service utilizes a two-step encryption process. (All the major sites offer this now.) Usually, this means that you log in once and then a numerical code is sent to you either by phone or email and you have to enter that random code in order to gain access. This extra step is nearly impossible to hack through. Beyond that, for anything sensitive you share online, use a service like Boxcryptor to encrypt the files before you even upload them.

Delete, Delete, Delete

Now that you know your cloud storage might not be 100 percent secure, it’s time to delete the trail your photos are leaving behind. Even if all you want to do is protect photos of your children from the public, if you’re just getting serious about this, you’ll have some deleting to do. If you’re using an iPhone and you use the automatic iCloud backup, you’ll have to remove photos from your Photo Stream collection to keep them off the cloud. If they’ve already been loaded, you’ll have to remove them from all your devices and then re-sync after they’re all wiped. If you synced your phone with a Mac computer, don’t forget to remove the photos from iPhoto. No matter what device you use, just remember that if you’re syncing the device to a cloud storage, just deleting a photo from the device won’t remove it from the cloud.

Reset Your Cloud-Sync Settings

You can feel free to use your device to take whatever kind of photos you want just as soon as you reset your cloud settings so the photos don’t leave your phone while you’re not looking. For iPhone users, this means diving into your settings and either turning off the iCloud backup, or just choosing not to have photos or videos uploaded. Keep in mind that you have to turn off the iCloud backup on each of your devices, or it will continue to sync anything using your Apple ID. In fact, if you want to, you can delete your iCloud altogether. For iPhones and other devices, check apps like Facebook and Google to make sure they aren’t also doing automatic backups and holding on to photos and other things you thought you deleted.

Know How to Get Your Photos Taken Down

If you have already had photos stolen from you, or you think someone you once trusted is no longer someone you can trust, then you need to know how to have your sensitive photos removed from harmful sites. Most porn sites, for example, have good policies for removing photos when contacted by victims. If you’re having trouble, there are places online that can help, or look into how the Digital Millennium Copyright Act can help you out. Beyond those resources, your local law enforcement should be able to help you out, but you may have to work at it to get them to focus on your case.

Don’t Share Sensitive Photos on Social Media

Again, theft is theft and the guilt—both morally and legally—lies with the thief, not you. But if you’re concerned about any of your photos being seen by people you don’t know or in ways you don’t intend, you should not share them on social media. If you do want to share photos, like pics of the kids the whole family wants to see, then know what your apps are doing. Make sure your Facebook privacy settings are locked down and Facebook isn’t doing cloud backups of your photos.

Social media isn’t fleeting. The Internet holds onto everything. A Snapchat photo doesn’t actually disappear—it’s living on a server. The person you send it to can easily save it with screenshot (and no, the sender doesn’t have to find out). All social media apps use servers and you have zero control over those servers. More and more, we’re finding out that you have that same zero control over where information goes when you text it. Want to have some fun by taking racy photos to share with your significant other? Fine, but turn off the Internet on your mobile device before you take them and then make sure you have deleted them before you turn the Internet back on. It’s the best way to make sure they aren’t leaving your phone without your knowledge.

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