12/10/14

Sex, privacy and Internet

The article, “The privacy of cows,” sought to call the reader’s attention, not to defend animals’ rights, but rather to highlight how certain privacy-related vulnerabilities may emerge as a result of current technologies. In this article, I’m rehashing the same theme: privacy and technology. [1]

The issue is as follows: recently, an application called Good2Go was launched, which provided a platform for people to consult one another about initiating sexual encounters. Users received propositions from other users, to which they could respond, “Yes,” “Yes, but…we need to talk,” or simply, “No.” The application was shut down shortly after its launch, in the wake of a range of objections related to its practicality, crude content, and questionable security measures.

Content considerations aside, this last concern related to Good2Go’s retention of users’ activity, as it was recently explained in an article from Tech Crunch, is what struck me most about the application.

While the application was not around long enough to gather statistics on its popularity, it is clear that Goog2Go creates the possibility of leaving a digital footprint related to one’s sexual life. Therefore, for whoever decided to use such an application, with full recognition that their sexual activities could become known by third parties, a valid question would be: don’t you consider your sexual decisions to be part of your private life?

One of the explanations for the creation of Good2Go had to do with encouraging a culture of consent on college campuses in the United States. Moreover, this application would have the effect of “proving” that there was consent provided by the potential accuser of a sexual assault. With that in mind, we could reformulate the earlier questions: it’s not so much an issue of taking sexual activity out of the arena of our private lives, but rather that that right would not be as valuable in the face of a possible need to defend before courts an accusation of a sexual assault  

At the same time that I found out about the existence of Good2Go, I read information about a study carried out in 2012 in Germany that concluded that the more information people disclose on social media, the more they make claims related to their privacy. The author of the study, Sabine Trepte, a professor at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, noted that the paradox is that there is dissatisfaction with what users get in return for divulging personal information. But, I would add, this dissatisfaction does not impede them from continuing to share information!

In any case, the reflection is the same: what content do we currently give to the right to privacy? The possibility to use applications such as Good2Go leave me thinking that perhaps we need to abandon certain concepts – legal as well as sociological – that we’ve been using for years regarding privacy. Or perhaps not, and the song will remain the same? What do you think, reader?



[1] I would like to thank Tomás Ramos, who collaborates on the Freedom of Expression on the Internet Initiative of the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information (CELE), for his contributions to this article. Sophia Sadinsky helped with the English version of this piece.