Background information

Nude selfies: How to safely share saucy snaps on the net

In spite of all warnings and prohibitions, people still send nude photos of themselves. Let’s forget about bans for a minute and, instead, talk openly about self-made sauciness. Keep reading for a guide on how to send images and movies safely.

Shock horror! Somebody has sent someone a photo of their naked body and now it’s gone public. This might have happened after a break-up. Or maybe the Cloud backup solution wasn’t as safe as assumed. In any case, it’s all a bit of a mess.

In today’s world, sex is also digital. You can flirt on dating apps such as Tinder, find yourself a one-night stand on Grindr and send little hearts to your better half on WhatsApp. So nude pics kind of come with the territory.

If you have kids, you can forbid them to send photos of their genitals. But, as our Chief Editor and father of one, Aurel Stevens, put it: Prohibitions often act like a written invitation. For that reason precisely, I'm not a big fan of prohibitions and prefer speaking openly about sensitive matters. Yes, nude selfies will keep on happening. And yes, mum and dad did say they were bad. And yes, it’s too late now.

  • Know-how

    How do you childproof the Internet?

    by Aurel Stevens

What Switzerland needs is an open dialogue about sexuality, the Internet and encryption. Not because we’re all gagging to share nude pics ourselves, but because we need to take personal responsibility and be autonomous in the digital world. And if nude selfies is what it takes to grab your attention (surprise, sex also sells in Switzerland) and tell you about digital responsibility, autonomy and safety, then I’m willing to go those lengths.

The measures described in this article can be applied to all content – from text messages containing critical business information to naked pictures. Encryption and knowing about the longevity of data is something we must tell our children and fellow human beings about.

So I sat myself down and adapted practices from IT security so you know how to send naked photos of yourself without being disgraced should things go wrong with your sweetheart. At the end of this article, I also took the opportunity to address more general matters regarding Switzerland, sex and the Internet.

The perfect way to send a sexy selfie

The perfect nude selfie does not exist. Whenever I mention selfies in this article, I also mean videos or any other type of medium that was produced behind closed doors by an amateur in the nip and not intended for the general public.

The perfect nude selfie does not exist because it was never taken. Every time you snap yourself in your birthday suit, you are taking an enormous risk and are jeopardising your reputation.

Therefore, we can determine a first rule: Never produce a nude selfie unless you absolutely have to. In other words, even if there is only a fraction of doubt in your mind, don’t do it. I can guarantee that your partner will not take it the wrong way if you never send him or her a snap of yourself in the buff. If they do take it badly, I’d strongly advise you to dump him or her. It’s for the best, believe me.

If you absolutely must share an intimate selfie, aim for plausible deniability

A relationship should not be based on an archive of your nakedness. Should your partner solemnly swear «Sweetheart, I won’t show it to anybody and will delete it immediately», don’t believe them. This is not about trusting your partner but about protecting yourself.

Generally speaking: Photos you might find even remotely embarrassing at a later stage should not be taken in the first place. Once the naked pic has been taken, the best thing you can hope for is plausible deniability. In other words, if somebody confronts you with a nude selfie that depicts nipples or a penis, you can simply say: «That’s not me.». The other person will have no way of proving the opposite.

If you really must

Ok, if you really have to… You'll close the door to your bedroom, chuck your clothes in the corner and aim to send your boyfriend or girlfriend a really hot pic of yourself. After all, you want it to be sexy and make your partner tear off your clothes as soon as you walk through the front door.

Precisely because nude selfies – and by «nude selfie» I mean any self-produced erotic media that is not intended for the public – pose a high risk for your reputation, it’s worth talking about and implementing best practices. Admittedly, this is starting to sound like InfoSec talk but it really is quite easy to take elements from the financial sector and apply them to amateur erotics. My friend Flavio Gerbino once wrote an article about client identifying data (in German). There, he describes three types of identifying data.

  1. Directly identifying data
  2. Indirectly identifying data
  3. Potentially indirectly identifying data

These are easy to apply to nude selfies.

Directly identifying data

According to Flavio, directly identifying data allow direct conclusions to be drawn on the identity of an individual.

  • Last name
  • First name
  • Social network ID
  • Address

These characteristics are unique and exclusively associated with you. In an erotic context, we can add the following aspects:

  • Face
  • Scars on body parts you show in public
  • Tattoos on body parts you show in public
  • Birthmarks on body parts you show in public
  • ...

Indirectly identifying data

If you can identify an individual by means of indirectly identifying data, you can only do so in combination with other data. In this matter, Flavio Gerbino is quite far removed from everyday reality; however, he does point out a few things we can apply to our nude selfie plan.

  • Car licence number
  • Bank details
  • Social media account user name
  • Other IDs in public registers
  • User names and passwords
  • Credit card details
  • IP addresses
  • Job details

Potentially indirectly identifying data

Potentially indirectly identifying data can only lead to an identification of an individual in combination with other data and under special conditions.

  • Details about birth/family/living situation
  • Identifiers of employer
  • Details about relationship
  • Hobbies

The perfect place for your nude selfie

Even though the above list is extremely dry and a bit boring, it is of great importance. After all, the aim of a nude photo is to share lots of skin and little identifying data. Let me repeat myself: This is a manual for an emergency, i.e. if there is absolutely no other way than sending a nude selfie.

Here’s the good news: Genitals are totally fine. After all, only very few people are familiar with them and your nipples or groin area will hardly be enough to identify you. I think this brings us to our first conclusion: Close-ups are better than full shots.

Close-ups are better than photos showing a lot of background

Generally speaking: The less visible background the better. Avoid showing too much of the room you’re in. Even though the bathroom is unsexy, it’s better than your bedroom, which is home to plenty of data that allows indirect identification. By contrast, bathrooms tend to be generic and interchangeable.

Close the windows and makes sure the angle of your camera doesn’t capture the neighbourhood. Draw the curtains or close the shutters. In any case, this will improve the lighting situation and make you look a little less shady. Pun intended. This is a fist step to avoid the simplest of data correlation.

Here’s an example: Twitter user Kiddiarni posted a pic taken in Iceland.

A photo taken from a window in Reykjavik
A photo taken from a window in Reykjavik

So if you want to know where the photo was taken and where Kiddiarni lives, that’s really easy to do. Take a look at the writing on the building across the street. A quick Google search for «Syndis» leads to the Icelandic security company Syndis and the address Borgartún 24 in 105 Reykjavík. Enter this information in Google Maps and you’ll know in which house Kiddiarni lives. The answer: Borgatún 26, probably on the third floor.

Your body is a give-away

In addition to a lot of background, your picture also depicts a person: you. And your body has countless directly identifying data. It’s got birthmarks, scars and, above all, a face.

Under no circumstances should your sexy pics or videos show your face.

Cover any tattoos or birthmarks that are visible to others

Remember, no other part of you is more visible to the public than your face. There are different ways of covering it – from choosing an image section that does not show your face in the first place to wearing a mask.

But there are plenty of other identifiers on your body. Tattoos, piercings, scars, birthmarks… if any of those are visible when you’re sporting swimming shorts or a bikini, it’s advisable to cover them up. You can use clothes (might be a bit strange in a nude selfie), a plaster, make up or rather theatre make-up as it has great covering properties.

Follow this advice and you should be fairly safe from «I’m posing naked and have lost all control over the produced images». But just to remind you: A nude selfie is never a good idea.

«But there’s an app...»

Irrespective of how much you love your partner. Whenever you can avoid sharing photos of yourself in the nip, avoid it. But let’s think this through. Imagine you’ve taken a sexy pic of yourself. Your tattoos are not recognisable, your face is not on the photo and the background isn’t giving anything away. So far so good. Now you want to send it. Using WhatsApp or Facebook messenger for this is a pretty bad idea. The pictures will remain somewhere in the Cloud and on your partner’s device. That is something you really don’t want. Even if your darling promised to delete the picture after looking at it.

In other words, you need an app that deletes messages, does not temporarily store data and does not allow screenshots. Snapchat seems like a good option. But reading through their surprisingly well-written terms of service reveals the following:

«Many of our Services let you create, upload, post, send, receive, and store content. When you do that, you retain whatever ownership rights in that content you had to begin with. But you grant us a license to use that content.»

Keep following the legal trail and you’ll come across the following in the app’s Privacy Policy:

«There are various ways Snapchatters can save your content and also upload it to Snapchat (like as an attachment in Chat).»

Evidently, Snapchat is happy to admit that third parties can easily store your content.

«Finally—and this is important—you should understand that users who see the content you provide can always save it using any number of techniques: screenshots, in-app functionality, or any other image-capture technology.»

Doesn’t sound great, does it? And it gets worse.

«For all content you submit to the Services other than Public Content, you grant Snap Inc. and our affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license to host, store, use, display, reproduce, modify, adapt, edit, publish, and distribute that content. This license is for the limited purpose of operating, developing, providing, promoting, and improving the Services and researching and developing new ones.»

In a nutshell: Do not use Snapchat.

If you still insist on sharing nude selfies, I recommend using Signal. It’s an open source messaging app that, among other things, has a feature that deletes your messages after a certain period of time. This also applies to your chat partner’s phone. By the way, Signal’s main page shows a sentence that you should take to heart if you’re sending out erotic content of yourself: Good memories will last even if the words vanish.

«Good memories will last even if the words vanish.»

Signal has quite a few good features that give you back a little more control over photos outside of your device.

  • Screenshots of the app are deactivated by default
  • You can change the settings so that your messages are deleted without a trace after a few seconds or minutes.
  • Messages sent from Signal to Signal are end-to-end encrypted

Conclusion: use Signal.

But caution! Your partner also needs to install Signal in order for everything to run safely and smoothly. Fortunately, Signal is free.

Sex, Switzerland and the Internet

In little old Switzerland, homemade nude images that go public have been known to cause a bit of a stir. Back in 2012, there was a teenager who took a video of herself inserting a bottle of Migros ice tea into her body. The video made the rounds on Facebook and local copies of it hit playgrounds nationwide. Three years later, Swiss national television SRF turned it into a movie called Upload with Yaël Meier in the leading role and a bottle of chocolate milk. Subtle.

Yaël Meier is a young Swiss actor
Yaël Meier is a young Swiss actor

The movie is quite well made, features talented young actors and used to be available on the SRF website. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. However, there are a few making of scenes you can still find.

The fact of the matter is, ever since the repercussions of the Ice Tea video, homemade nude selfies and videos are also a thing in Switzerland – a country that tends to think the Internet is just a fad that will disappear and let us return to our normal lives. Great.

Of course, the state severely punishes any violation of child pornography laws. And child pornography includes filming yourself if you’re a minor. But irrespective of this, any damage done cannot be undone. Even today, the Ice Tea video can be found in dark corners of the net. If you’re under 16, it is prohibited by law to share naked pictures of yourself or others.

  • The young lady who filmed herself was charged with offences against child pornography laws but was later cleared (in German)
  • Eight other adolescents were charged and at least half of them sentenced and partially forced to do community service

Sharing racy selfies with your partner is a reality we have to deal with. Smartphones are equipped with high-resolution cameras for taking razor sharp pictures that can be sent privately or publicly in seconds. Therefore, a prohibition is pointless – even if it’s imposed by the federal authorities in Bern, a school principal or a chief editor/father.

Right. Enough of that. Stay sexy and safe!

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Journalist. Author. Hacker. A storyteller searching for boundaries, secrets and taboos – putting the world to paper. Not because I can but because I can’t not.

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