a week in wireless

Phoney dilemma

The combination of the camera-laden smartphone and the cloud has given us the power to photographically record our every waking moment with the assurance that our memories will forever reside on a distant, networked hard-drive. But there is another side to this technological coin.

As the Informer has found with regrettable regularity, actions taken in the heat of the moment are not always accompanied with ideal levels of due diligence. The Informer abode is replete with unused objects bought primarily due to their apparent bargain status at the time of acquisition. Only later did the Informer reflect that, regardless of their low price, there are only so many barbeques, tablets and nose hair trimmers a reasonable lifestyle can accommodate.

A key feature of the smartphone era is the extent to which it encourages impulsive behaviour. We can now buy things merely by waving our phones at them and are free to share our unique insights with the rest of the world via countless social media, article comments and chat rooms. We can embark on any journey without fear of losing our way and, of course, record every step of it.

But a fascinating by-product of all this personal empowerment has been to expose new strands of human nature, one of which seems to be taking photos of ourselves with our kit off. At risk of disappointing the army of groupies that hang on his every word, the Informer must reveal this is far from a universal urge. While navigating through the graveyard of superfluous tat that litters Informer towers, seldom does the need to strip off and record this glorious event present itself.

If the plague of leaked saucy selfies, celebrity and otherwise, that has blighted the webosphere in recent weeks is anything to go by, the Informer is in a distinct minority. With smartphone perpetually in-hand, your average punter now apparently doesn’t think twice before recording their glorious nakedness for posterity. Various OTT players, keen to ensure the stickiness (!) of their users, then promptly whisk said selfie onto their servers with the efficiency of Jeeves in a crisis.

In less dignified corners of the Internet than Telecoms.com, images of even moderately well-known people in varying degrees of undress are apparently hot property. Opportunistic hackers, aware of the modern tendency for private material to find its way onto the Internet, seldom wait for a formal invitation to seek out this choice material and make it more widely available.

The first of the current wave of hacked images was traced to Apple’s iCloud, but the company was quick to confirm that this was the result of compromised login details, rather than any inherent security flaw in iCloud itself. Perhaps fuelled by countless subsequent articles reflecting with exhaustive detail how terrible and shocking it all is, further waves of leakage followed.

Some people apparently do want to share their naughty pics but, understandably, would like to have some say in who sees them, which brings us to the more enduring trend that is ‘sexting’. This involves sharing sexually explicit images via text message. While the audience for these is initially limited to the lucky chosen few, there’s nothing to stop them subsequently sharing the photos with whoever. This trend serves to remind us that smartphones are now also in the possession of people considered too young to make informed decisions.

For those who, regardless, still find the urge to share their saucy snaps irresistible, an apparent solution is offered by Snapchat. This IM app allows you to send ephemeral images that disappear from recipient devices and Snapchat servers within seconds. But a recent scandal involved 500MB of Snapchat images being accessed anyway, with a third-party app called Snapsave, which is designed to apparently defeat the object of Snapchat by allowing its images to be saved, accepting culpability.

There will doubtless be further such leaks but there is, of course, a simple solution to this dilemma: don’t take any photos on an Internet connected device that you don’t want to end up in the public domain. However, as the relentless march of the Internet of Things continues, that is an increasingly difficult thing to avoid and The Informer can only be grateful that such electronic dangers didn’t exist during his younger, more impulsive years.

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