Saturday, December 8, 2018

Cyber Flashing: Sexual Harrassment on Your Phone

So you're out and about minding your own business and suddenly out of the blue you get a phone message. Oh boy! A message, a message! Well who could it be? Does your spouse or special rider need to speak to you? Maybe your kid's in some sort of trouble? Perhaps a sibling or friend has sent you a joke? 

Maybe a hospitalized elderly relative you just visited needs you to do something? Maybe a parent is sending you a reminder of something you just spoke about, as parents are often prone to do. So you look down at your phone to see what the message is and who sent it. Well, no it's nothing like that. Some anonymous idiot calling himself something stupid has sent you an unsolicited pic of a body part you really don't care to see at the moment or maybe not ever.

Rebecca Odorisio was traveling home on a crowded A train on Tuesday when a photo suddenly appeared on her phone from someone identifying himself as “The Enterprise.” It was a picture of an erect penis, sent to her over AirDrop, an iPhone feature that allows users to send photos and documents to anyone within 30 feet who has left that feature open. Disgusted, she quickly rejected it. “I felt like I had been punched in the gut,” Ms. Odorisio, 31, a Brooklyn-based actress and singer, said Wednesday. She said it was not the first time something like that had happened to her, adding, “It was extremely violating.” 

Kathe Hannauer, 58, had a similar experience last month, as she traveled from Brooklyn to Manhattan on a crowded train during the evening rush. When an image of male genitalia suddenly appeared on her screen, she said she felt more surprised than flustered. “It was kind of like, ‘At my age?’” she said. “No one has harassed me in the longest time.” 

But she worried about what would happen if a young girl was sent such a photograph, so she quickly wrote about the incident on Facebook to warn her friends to turn their AirDrop feature off when they are in public. 

The two women were victims of what has become known as cyber flashing, a growing trend of technology-enabled sexual harassment. It has become so common that two lawmakers introduced a City Council bill on Wednesday to explicitly make it a crime, punishable by a $1,000 fine or up to a year in jail. 

There are two ways to restrict the AirDrop feature on an iPhone. In the main settings app, select “General,” and then “AirDrop.” Then select either “Receiving Off” or “Contacts Only.” The “Everyone” setting is when sexual harassers can send you photos.

Alternately, swiping up from any screen will bring up the control center. Pushing down on the Bluetooth icon will open another menu, in which there is an AirDrop icon. Tap that, and the options for “Receiving Off,” “Contacts Only” and “Everyone” appear. LINK

It's amazing how technology which should theoretically help people is just as likely to be used by people to harass, intimidate or bully. It's a reminder that technology is often value neutral. It can be used for good or evil. There might be times when it would be useful to communicate without speaking to everyone in the general vicinity, if say for example you're trying to warn fellow airline passengers of an impending hijacking or similar catastrophe. 

But often people don't want to receive photos from strangers, especially not crude or explicit photos. There are some people who say they are just trying to make people smile by sending (presumably non-explicit) images or jokes. Well maybe. I guess that's no different from the person on the street corner telling jokes. But there's a difference between telling jokes and flashing people. People should ensure that that only their contacts can send photos to their phone. There is apparently no end to the number of perverts lurking in this world.
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