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SXSW ’14: Your Privacy — From Retailers to ‘Revenge Porn’

Do we care much about our privacy -- until someone invades it?
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(Michael Calhoun/KMOX)

(Michael Calhoun/KMOX)

calhoun2 Michael Calhoun
A native St. Louisan, Michael Calhoun grew up listening to the Voice...
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AUSTIN, Tex. (KMOX) – If you’ve ever sent a ‘sext’ — or sexy text — to your significant other, you’d better hope you stay on good terms… or you could wind up an unwitting porn star.

“Without Consent: Ending Revenge Porn” was a session at the South by Southwest Interactive festival exploring the phenomenon of “revenge porn” and, often, the lack of recourse among victims.

The panel was set-up this way:

“There is an increasingly widespread problem of abusers and perpetrators posting images and video footage online as a tactic of abuse, harassment, bullying and extortion.

The images and videos may be of consensual nudity or sexual activities that were taken with or without the victim’s consent. As seen in recent high-profile cases, they can also be images or footage of physical and/or sexual assaults.”

Christina Gagnier, of California law firm Gagnier Margossian LLP, explained to KMOX’s Michael Calhoun that there are websites which cater specifically to ‘revenge porn’ and actively solicit such material. Those photos, with real names attached, can show up in Google searches, which is a scary prospect for someone, say, looking for a job.

Christina Gagnier, of “Without Consent: Ending Revenge Porn” (Photo: Michael Calhoun/KMOX)

Christina Gagnier, of “Without Consent: Ending Revenge Porn” (Photo: Michael Calhoun/KMOX)

What can you do if you’re a victim? Depends on where you are.

“Illinois has a law on the books that’s been used to prosecute revenge porn,” she said. “It’s one of the few states — California, New Jersey, Florida, and Illinois — that were kind of forefront of having laws that could be used” to get posts taken down and perpetrators prosecuted.

Often times, the websites use the defense that, even though circumstances have changed, the photo was taken with consent.

“It’s really kind of a gray area,” Gagnier said. “But if there were criminal penalties for posting an image without consent, I think that that would probably be a stronger strategy so people stop deciding to do this.”

NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH

Remember when Target tipped off parents that their teen was pregnant — by mailing a packet of pregnancy-related coupons based on her shopping habits?

That’s just the beginning of business intrusion, warned another session at the tech festival.

But do we care?

“Dear Taco Vendor: How Are You Securing My Data?” riffed off the fact that on just about every street corner in Austin during South by Southwest is someone offering a free product or service — including food trucks giving away tacos — in exchange for, say, your email address.

And “when you give up your email, you really giving up more of yourself than you realize,” David Tishart declared. He said a routine Internet search using his email address turns up a surprising amount of information.

“They have my age, they know how many kids I have, they have pictures of my kids, they’ve got my home address, they know how much my house is worth according to tax records, who my nearest living relatives are and everything about them,” and much, much more.

David Tishgart, of "Dear Taco Vendor, How Are You Securing My Data?" (Photo: Michael Calhoun/KMOX)

David Tishgart, of “Dear Taco Vendor, How Are You Securing My Data?” (Photo: Michael Calhoun/KMOX)

Yet most people readily click “accept” or willingly type in their email address with little concern.

Tishgart, whose job at a marketing agency focuses “on security for big data,” said several retailers already track which products a potential customer views on their website.

And while it might not seem like most of the data being collected today is of much use, companies have the capacity to keep it forever until an application arises.

For instance, just wait until stores start taking advantage of the fact that each and every cell phone, tucked into our pockets, has a G.P.S. chip inside.

Stores will soon be able to say, “I know that so-and-so is searching this at home, they’re probably interested in it, now they’re at a store and they’re actually near the aisle where they can buy it,”  Tishgart explained. “Now you start getting ads for a dollar off. And you think about it, that’s actually providing me as service. That’s pretty cool. On the surface.”

He said under the surface is the danger of that data being hacked, as witnessed with Target, Schnucks and other companies in the last twelve months.

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