Valentine’s Day. What a great time to send that certain someone an sexy photo or video of yourself. That may be a great temptation, and I have to admit that a lady friend once “sexted” me, and I was very, well, flattered — but were I less of a gentleman, that risqué shot could have wound up on the Web, to her lasting embarrassment.
When relationships end badly, there’s a temptation to get back at the other person. But these days it’s so easy to post a photo all over the Web. And what could be more humiliating than to have intimate imagery you sent to your significant other broadcasted on the Web? Once that’s done, you can’t undo it.
McAfee, a company that sells security products, recently did a survey about love and the online world. They found that 28 percent of the nearly 1,200 people surveyed said they regretted (once they broke up) sending intimate content and 32 percent have asked their ex-partner to delete the personal content. But despite these risks, 36 percent of Americans still plan to send sexy or romantic photos to their partners via email, text and social media on Valentine’s Day.
I suspect that the McAfee survey won’t rank with Nate Silver’s amazing election prognostications as a model of scientific polling, but it does offer some hard-to-argue-with advice. As Paul Simon once said, there are (at least) 50 ways to leave your lover. Some of those tactics will really tick them off and you could wind up on the wrong end of a revenge plot.
Here are some of the actions that provoked retaliation, according to people who answered the survey.
Lying (45.3 percent)
Cheating (40.6 percent)
Breaking up with me (26.6 percent)
Calling off Wedding (14.1 percent)
Posting pictures with someone else (12.5 percent)
Other (12.5 percent)
It’s also worth remembering that keeping very personal stuff in your email box can be dangerous. Consider the case of Karen “Gary” Kazaryan, a California man accused by the FBI of hacking into the Facebook, Skype, and email accounts of over 350 female victims. After taking control of their accounts, Kazaryan searched through emails to find risqué photos, passwords, and the names of victims’ friends.
He then used this information to extort target individuals, posting their photos on Facebook when they failed to comply with his demands. In the end, the FBI recovered almost 3,000 photos from the attacks, and the list of affected victims is still growing.
“Most of this content was likely sent to highly trusted partners or friends, or simply saved and left to sit in a long-forgotten email thread. It’s an unfortunate but highly underestimated fact that once sensitive information hits an Internet-connected device, it could be out there for good,” commented McAfee vice president Gary Davis.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.