Huan Truong

Notes from a developer


'I don't care if my pictures are leaked'

Warning: This blog entry has strong languages. If you're offended by gender matters, please refrain yourself from reading.

When I was talking about privacy to people in real life, I have yet to hear someone who argues that "I have nothing to hide." Rather, the response was generally "You are so petty to care about privacy."

Recently, I mentioned to a millennial Vietnamese female friend that it is ironic that I have been using Signal to just talk with privacy-concerned friends about mundane matters. I do not have a Facebook account now, but I know Facebook had the tendency to log the messages. In fact, there was no option to not log any conversation on Messenger, you could only delete the history after the fact. In the past, they also did not really delete your picture attachments – you could delete the conversation history all you want, but the "shared media" section on the right of the messenger window remained. I remember specifically at one point I got really annoyed because of that section of a conversation was filled with sensive pictures and I just couldn't get rid of them. Because of all the """convenience""" of logging, let's imagine you forget to log out or have to walk out of a public computer in a public library. When a person with ill wills sits in your chair, consider yourself screwed, because they could find a picture you sent 3 years ago to your ex.

So her answer to that was "I don't give a shit if my nudes are leaked. Everybody sends nudes over the internet and leaks happen. You have too little to worry about that you start caring about trivial matters. You could as well care about your finance now. Like, leaking banking records or something."

That was it. It didn't matter to her. And she is totally normal and has a normal corporate job. She is not subscribed to alternative cultures.

And I think it didn't matter to the girls who sent sensitive pictures over Facebook Messenger either. If leaking sensitive pictures doesn't scare one, I don't know what does. I felt like the concept of violated privacy to some people is like the concept of going to hell to atheists.

To that point, I feel Facebook is an unfortunate consequence, a manifestation of the de-sensation of reduced privacy, but not the origin of it. As a society, we shifted from condemning people who embraced their bodies, to understanding the people who are victims of leaked private pictures, to considering leaks to be normal. Designs and features nowadays aren't based on the idea security and privacy first, but the convenience, data collection, and monetarization of contents first. We have messengers that log messages on the servers indefinitely by default unless you have reasons to delete them. We have services that log and track users unless you want to delete them (and that is touted as one of the best privacy-respecting features ever). Many people think privacy is a weird niche, instead of a baseline expectation. Many girls who expect their pictures to be leaked online when they send them to their boyfriends. We have sites, services, applications, and games that expect themselves to manipulate, spy on and play ads to the users instead of asking the users to pay to use.