Taking a naked selfie? Your phone should step in to protect you

“What should smartphone makers do about nude selfies?,” Farhad Manjoo wonders for The New York Times. “Should they encourage us all to point our phones away from our unclothed bodies — or should they instead decide that naked selfies are inevitable, and add features to their products that reduce the chance that these photos could get hacked?”

“Don’t scoff. In the wake of the release of several female celebrities’ nude images, it’s time that the tech industry begin taking the naked-photo security problem seriously,” Manjoo writes. “We should try harm reduction: Phone makers should build their products with the expectation that lots of us will take indelicate photos of ourselves and our loved ones. When we do so, our phones should step in with options for protecting such photos, and should apply extra scrutiny when the people who are snapping them are underage.”

“When you point your phone at your naked form and snap a shot, it could give you a warning,” Manjoo writes. “This is technically plausible. In recent years, computers have become quite good at recognizing specific features in images, including faces and cats. Recognizing the nude form is a comparatively easy task.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: That would give facial-recognition a whole new meaning.


    1. I agree Breeze. Like why are there seatbelts? If you drive fast you deserve to eventually taste tempered glass. It’s not the responsibility of the car manufacturer to put in “seatbelts” to “protect you.”

      1. False analogy. Taking a naked picture of yourself harms only yourself. If you want to do it, the State should not prevent you. Not wearing seat belts has externalities imposing costs on the rest of society. The State has a legitimate interest in minimizing those costs for others.

        1. I’m curious, what “externalities” are there and what costs are imposed on the rest of the society when a seatbelt is not worn (other than the consequence for the person not wearing it)? The driving force behind the seat belt laws was NOT any “legitimate interest” by the state to reduce cost on the society from consequences of not wearing a seat belt, but to reduce the number of traffic accident fatalities. It was essentially a “nanny-state” law, putting belts on people for their own good (and not primarily for the good of the state). This was the primary reason why there was such powerful resistance by the population (and there remains resistance in parts of the population even today).

          Adding a layer of protection in case of snapping compromising pictures is technologically quite feasible, and a feature that would help sell phones. Users feel much better when they get a reassuring message that reminds them of the risks of sharing such images. This isn’t much different than when we hit “Delete” and the device responds back with “Are you sure you want to delete?”. Or should we eliminate these warnings, expecting people to take personal responsibility for reckless things they may be doing (such as deleting data)?

          1. Completely wrong about reasons and motives behind seat belt laws. States have a vested interest in preserving life, something courts have upheld many, many times (see the Nancy Cruzan and similar cases).

            The addition to seat belt laws is that often the state bears the burden, under Medicaid, for medical costs for uninsured/underinsured people who get much more seriously injured in an accident by not wearing a seat belt. Someone pays those bills, whether it be hospitals, doctors, or taxpayers. And states have a vested interest in reducing medical payments with reasonable laws, such as seat belt laws.

          2. Why stop at nudie pic protection. Why not include protection from sending text messages that make you look like an ass. Surely more people have been harmed by things they text out of anger and regret than of leaked nude photos of themselves. People don’t want their phone to be their nanny.

            1. There are a number of apps that provide exactly that (DrunkLock, DrunkText, TWI — Texting While Intoxicated — etc). They implement various ways of preventing you from sending a text when you’re drunk. Some parse text for above-average misspellings and profanities, some require you to perform a mental function (such as multiplication of two-digit numbers), others simply disable the texting function of your phone for a specific time period, etc. And these apps are quite popular.

              So, apparently, people don’t mind at all when their phone is their nanny. We use our phones for all sorts of things. They remind us of things we would otherwise forget (is that a “nanny” thing or not?), they give us relevant information even before we ask for it (weather alerts, traffic alerts), and yes, they can also prevent us from doing something stupid if we want them to do this. For people who don’t want their phone to be their nanny, all these features can be turned off. For the rest of us, they enable me to focus on more important things in my life and let my phone worry about the less important ones.

    2. I do not think this as a beat Apple up story for no reasons. This is an author thinking outside the box. I may not agree with his conclusion but I encourage all to come up with new and weird ideas. I think the protection of our digital life is more critical than ever before and the selfies are just a tiny fraction of the real issue.

      Steve never cared for the mundane but never dismissed feedbacks. He would try to understand the root cause (need) and how technology and help make the need taken care of without users having to take too many steps. Steve would have seen that security is not an option but a major differentiator. Apple has an opportunity to go beyond what others are willing or their business plans allow them (i.e. Google, NSA, etc…) and make our digital lives SECURE. I am sure the fingerprint scanner is part of that longer term plan.

      I hate it if this forum becomes an idea basher.

    3. Personal Responsibility pretty much sums it up.

      I don’t care about the photos. That stuff does not bother me one way or the other. Take ’em if you want. However, if you take them on a device that connects to the internet and stores them in the cloud, then you should take proper precautions to secure your account. If you do not, then you might just find that someone has found a way into your account and copied them. You lock your car and lock your home. Many people even have alarm systems on both. Lock your account.

      Even with a “secure” account, your privacy may still be invaded. That is particularly true for people in the public spotlight – celebrities, politicians, etc. If you have media files or other data that you absolutely do not want to share with the world, then do not place it in the cloud and do not keep the information on a device attached to the internet. Even then, you should encrypt the information. That is your most secure option. But, even then, you still face the potential loss of that information if someone steals the device and is determined to decrypt your data. If that small risk is too high for you, then don’t snap that picture or take that video.

  1. NPD – a disease. (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). Such people think they should be adored and should take no responsibility for their actions. The world owes them. For example, “personalities”. My take – if they want to be idiots, let them. And waste no resources on protecting them from their egos. Let then reach their ego bottom and then maybe they will see the light.

    1. Americans are a fascinating bunch. The public reaction to this whole incident seems to focus in great deal on the “narcissistic” narrative (They are idiots, they brought this on themselves, let them feel the full weight of the consequences). Such reaction implies some extremely strict and high moral code, where the people in this incident appear to be on the very fringes of the society, with complete lack of moral codex (or at least one that is significantly looser than that of the mainstream America).

      This is in a severe disconnect with the reality in America. The Hollywood celebrities represent a very small fraction of the number of people who take compromising pictures of themselves (in various states of undress) and post them online (on purpose, no less!). There are millions of images floating around the internet of Americans from all parts of the country, provocatively undressed, that one can’t but question the false morality professed in public by so many.

      This isn’t the first case where this false morality came to the surface. So many times, public protestations of many Americans tend to be from the sky-high moral ground, while privately, they collectively spend close to $1 billion per year of pornography. Now, unless there are 1,000 perverts in America who spend a million dollars each on porn every year, it looks like mainstream America is quite duplicitous when it comes to moral values. Let us not forget, there is plenty of free porn online, too, so the $1B figure doesn’t even cover that.

  2. Anyone that does not want any private info and/or photos that can possibly hurt their career or whatever, should not put it on any electronic device that has a connection to the internet. Some how it will get hacked or unintentionally get on the internet and that is it. It is that simple and it is amazing how people are so stupid when it comes to this. Instead of blaming the devices security or whatever, if you feel the need to save this info, be smart and not stupid. First you sync the device with your computer, then you take it of the computer and put it on a USB Stick Drive, then erase it off the phone and computer and the devices if they get hacked will not have that info on them and get leaked on the internet. It is that simple!! Then the stick drive lock it away and it will stay personal.

    1. Anyone who cares for their life and health should NOT drive a car. Thousands of people die in car accidents every day, thousands more become disabled or are severely injured, it is simply amazing how people are so stupid when it comes to this. If you really, really need to go somewhere, take public transport — there’s busses, trains, airplanes, boats, they are much, much safer than private cars, and they will take you anywhere you need to go. Just buy your ticket and you’re all set. It’s that simple! Life existed before cars. There is nothing in our life that can be accomplished with a car that cannot be accomplished without it (albeit much slower).

      Technology improves quality of life. Every new technology that brings improvements to our lives also brings some possibility of abuse. Throughout the history of humanity, we have embraced the new technologies and along the way, worked on figuring out how to mitigate the risks. Dismissing some technology that makes life easier and simpler just because we don’t know how to deal with the risk is foolish.

  3. Trying to detect nude selfies is the wrong approach. Most browsers have private browsing…Why not introduce “private picture” mode. Any picture taken in private mode is not uploaded to cloud and adds another layer of alerts, i.e. “Are you sure you want to post this private picture on Facebook?”

    Apple could show it has responded to this “crisis” and indemnify itself when this invariably happens again.

    1. There are so many times that I take a picture and don’t want it to go to the cloud, naked selfies aside. Wiring on the back of an amplifier because I want to disconnect everything, move it, then re-connect? Anyone? Ferris? It happens all the time. Something you see in the store and you want to send a quick shot of it to your spouse to make sure it’s what he/she said he/she wanted? There should absolutely be a mode on the phone where the pictures you take don’t go to the cloud. Agree 100%.

  4. It’s not the responsibility of product makers to protect people from themselves. If people make the conscious choice to take nude pictures they need to be aware of the consequences and make the conscious choice to protect said pictures.

    The fact is, something already exists to protects you from your nude selfies, it’s called Snapchat. And if someone takes a screen shot of your snap, you know it, and it’s on you for sending it, not them for screenshotting.

    A product maker trying to prevent people from using the product they pay good money for to me is just as bad as the government trying to micromanage your life.

  5. You can legislate to stop stupidity.
    There will always be stupid people. Just people watch the next time you are at an amusement park.
    Sometimes I wonder how these people make it thru the week alive.

    1. I don’t think anyone is suggesting legislating nude selfies. What Manjoo suggests is that a simple feature that could be built into the OS (or the photo app) relatively easily could make smartphones smarter and more appealing to users. While no manufacturer is required (or should be required) to do this, common sense tells us that something like this would be very popular. Let us not forget, vast majority of single young adults have at one point or another sent their romantic partner a sexy (and revealing) image of themselves (as a part of the modern mating rituals). A feature that would allow users to restrict how and where these types of images are transmitted would certainly be very welcome.

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