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The Snappening: Mostly Harmless

As I reported in a previous post, the hacked SnapChat collection known as the Snappening contains very few nude photos, and most of those do not show an identifiable face. I was asked to quantify this, so I took a random sample of 1,000 photos from the collection and categorized them. To respect the privacy of the people involved, all the photos examined have been deleted from my computer, and the contents of the photos will only be discussed in terms of a statistical summary. Here are the results

Non Nude Photos (mostly very mundane) 84.6%
Message only (no photo) 9.1%
Spam/scam nude (all the same model) 2.1%
Female nude with no face visible 1.9%
Male nude with no face visible 1.1%
Female nude with face visible 0.6%
Male Nude with face visible 0.3%
Professional porn photos 0.3%
Obvious under age nudes 0.0%

Less than one percent of the consisted of a genuine amateur nude in which the person’s face was visible, and none of those were obviously under age. A further three percent of the photos featured amateur nudity, but with the face of the subject cropped or obscured. Female nudes outnumbered male nudes overall by about 2:1.

There was evidence of one particular scam artist using a series of nude and partially undressed photos of a single model who was sending these to different women attempting to get them to share nude photos of themselves. There were actually twice as many full face pictures of this model in the sample I looked at than all the other full face nudes put together. I doubt very much if the person sending the photos was really female.

94% of the images did not feature nudity, and though there were a few showing underwear or swimsuit poses, the vast majority were mundane portraits or pictures of everyday activities. 9% did not even feature a picture at all, just a message on a plain background.

In spite of the very small percentage of nude photos, the BitTorrent download for the collection is generating a fair amount of activity. As of this morning, there are over 2,400 seeds (users with a complete copy of the files who are currently sharing them) and a further 3,300 with a partial copy in the process of downloading the rest. For comparison, the latest episode of Doctor Who has over 7,500 seeds.

Even though most of the Snappening images are completely innocuous, it is still an unacceptable invasion of privacy that communications that were supposed to be private and ephemeral should be hacked and published in this way. Though the compromise came from a third party application, SnapChat must share the blame for this as they did not do enough to make sure that their communications could not be intercepted.

With the current state of Internet security, the safest assumption to make is that any photo that you share with another person may end up being published. Even if you use end to end encryption, the person receiving the photo may save it and deliberately or accidentally release it to the world. Even if you have the legal resources of an A-list celebrity there is not much you can do once a photograph has been released. There are too many file and image sharing services, many of them with no single operator in charge, so legal action against them all is impractical. It’s a sad statement on our times, but unless you are comfortable with other people seeing your body, you should not take nude photos of yourself.


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