The guy who made a tool to track women in porn videos is sorry - MIT Technology Review
An anonymous programmer based in Germany caused outrage this week for supposedly using face-recognition technology to “catch” women who had appeared in porn. He says he’s since deleted the project and all its data, but that’s not an act of altruism. Such a project would have violated European privacy law anyway, though it would have been okay elsewhere.
There is still no proof that the global system—which allegedly matched women’s social-media photos with images from sites like Pornhub—actually worked, or even existed. Still, the technology is possible and would have had awful consequences. “It’s going to kill people,” says Carrie A. Goldberg, an attorney who specializes in sexual privacy violations and author of the forthcoming book Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls. “Some of my most viciously harassed clients have been people who did porn, oftentimes one time in their life and sometimes nonconsensually [because] they were duped into it. Their lives have been ruined because there’s this whole culture of incels that for a hobby expose women who’ve done porn and post about them online and dox them.” (Incels, or “involuntary celibates,” are a misogynistic online subculture of men who claim they are denied sex by women.)
The European Union’s GDPR privacy law prevents this kind of situation. Though the programmer—who posted about the project on the Chinese social network Weibo—originally insisted everything was fine because he didn’t make the information public, just collecting the data is illegal if the women didn’t consent, according to Börge Seeger, a data protection expert and partner at German law firm Neuwerk. These laws apply to any information from EU residents, so they would have held even if the programmer weren’t living in the EU.
Under GDPR, personal data (and especially sensitive biometric data) needs to be collected for specific and legitimate purposes. Scraping data to figure out if someone once appeared in porn is not that. And if the programmer had charged money to access this information, he could have faced up to three years in prison under German criminal law, adds Seeger.
Et toujours cette logique de l’excuse qui semble Zurkerbériser un grand nombre de programmeurs.
Reached last night via Weibo, the programmer (who did not give his real name) insisted that the technology was real, but acknowledged that it raised legal issues. He’s sorry to have caused trouble. But he’s not the only one able to build this technology, or the only one interested in using it for dangerous purposes. Policymakers concerned with global privacy law need to start thinking ahead.