Give Facebook your nude pics to tackle revenge porn

Graham Cluley

Give Facebook your nude pics to tackle revenge porn

Give Facebook your nude pics to tackle revenge porn

ABC News in Australia reports that Facebook is “teaming up with Government to stop nude photos ending up on Messenger, Instagram”:

Facebook is partnering with a small Australian Government agency to prevent sexual or intimate images being shared without the subject’s consent.

e-Safety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said victims of “image-based abuse” would be able to take action before photos were posted to Facebook, Instagram or Messenger.

“We see many scenarios where maybe photos or videos were taken consensually at one point, but there was not any sort of consent to send the images or videos more broadly,” Ms Inman Grant said.

I guess you’ve got to be pretty worried that some toe-rag is interested in sharing nude photographs of you, if you’re prepared to ask for Facebook’s help in this way.

As far as I’m aware, Facebook hasn’t published any information on how it plans to implement this. I would imagine that they are using similar technology to that used by internet companies to identify child sexual abuse images – where they don’t need to store a copy of the actual offending content, but instead have a database of “fingerprints” that can identify images and videos.

My hope and expectation is that Facebook will automate the process as much as possible, but that there may need to be some human involvement to review submitted images.

My guess is that Facebook will tightly control who in the company can review and access submitted images, and that they will be blurred to protect people’s privacy, before they are converted into “fingerprints” and then permanently wiped.

You probably do need some human involvement to prevent people chucking images into the system which *wouldn’t* be classified as “revenge porn” (perhaps with mischief in mind, or perhaps in an attempt to prevent the spread of images that they were trying to suppress for other reasons).

This “human” element is probably the most risky part of the process, and there will be many people ready to castigate Facebook if it screws this up.

“Revenge porn” is horrendous enough as it is, without technology companies making the problem worse. Facebook knows that there will be many people concerned about how it handles such sensitive content, and I imagine they have put a good deal of thought into minimising the chances that anything goes wrong.

By the way, “revenge porn” is a horrendous phrase. We need to think up a better one.


Update 9 November 2017: Facebook has published some more details of its scheme.

For more discussion on this topic, be sure to listen to this episode of the Smashing Security podcast:

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Graham Cluley Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

9 Replies to “Give Facebook your nude pics to tackle revenge porn”

  1. So, how does it get consent? Does it message you out of the blue and say "bob" is trying to publish an intimate picture of you? Do they show you the picture? What if it's not you? Then it would be Facebook spreading it. What if you're a twin?

    How about more articles that say… don't allow others/self to take intimate pictures of you. Unless they're actual non/never digital images stored in a controlled safe place [and that's not even 100% safe], assume it'll eventually fall in the wrong hands.

    1. My guess is that Facebook doesn't bother asking for consent.

      If it determines the image is in its database of dodgy images it simply won't allow it to be uploaded to its servers.

      1. We therefore have to trust the Facebook image matching algorithms! Mmmmm, judging by the way they seem to lose perfectly legitimate comments at random from the site (of which I have proof), I don't think I'd trust much of their software capabilities.

  2. There is another phrase used instead of "revenge porn" – "image based sexual abuse". I'm guessing the media isn't using it as the "porn" part likely sells more copies for them.

  3. Did you see this thread by Alex Stamos, and the article linked there?

    https://twitter.com/alexstamos/status/928740488395608065

    It is something Facebook, any many organisations working with victims, have thought about very carefully. No solution is perfect, but if you're worried about your nudes being shared among your class mates, with your family or within your social circle, should you really worry about some anonymous person at Facebook also having access to your nudes?

    1. Also, someone else made the good point that the use of "your" in many articles (including your blog) implies that this is something for the general public. It's for a very specific group of people, for whom this may be the least bad of all bad options.

  4. Why does photo need uploading?

    Surely like several firms on the market that use a Photoshop plugin to calculate fingerprint, it could actually be done in the browser or local utility?

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