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Cyberflashing is on the RISE: Cases of women sent X-rated images is set to DOUBLE


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The worrying rise of ‘cyber-flashing’: Threat of receiving X-rated snaps over AirDrop leaves women ‘looking over their shoulder’, expert insists – as the number of cases is set to DOUBLE

  • Number of cases of ‘cyber-flashing’ is set to double this year, figures suggest
  • The trend sees people send unsolicited, X-rated images over AirDrop or Beam 
  • Clare McGlynn, of Durham University, says it leaves women feeling threatened

The threat of becoming a victim of ‘cyber-flashing’ means women are left ‘looking over their shoulders’ when going about their daily lives, an expert has insisted.

Clare McGlynn, a professor of law at Durham University, spoke out against the practice in an interview with Sunday Times Style, arguing it is a ‘breach of civil liberties’. 

Cyber-flashing is the act of someone deliberately sending a stranger an unsolicited sexual image using the AirDrop feature on an iPhone. These images are typically of male genitalia.

AirDrop requires the recipient’s Apple device to be nearby in order for an image to be transferred, meaning perpetrators can be just feet away from when they hit ‘send’.

The threat of becoming a victim of ‘cyber-flashing’ means women are left ‘looking over their shoulders’ when going about their daily lives, an expert has insisted. Stock image

Police investigated the first ever case of cyber-flashing in 2015 after an unwanted lewd picture popped up on a shocked London commuter’s iPhone. There were three cases reported in 2016 and 15 in 2017.

Worryingly, the trend seems to be on the rise. Figures published by the British Transport Police show there has been 35 offences recorded in the first half of 2019 compared to 34 for the whole of 2018.

The number of reported cases is also thought to be much lower than the actual number of instances, partly due to the fact that cyber-flashing is not in itself a crime.

Some cases can be investigated under current public decency laws, or the Malicious Communications Act, but there are no specific provisions for cyber-flashing.

What is cyber-flashing?

Cyber-flashing is the act of someone deliberately sending a stranger an unsolicited sexual image using the AirDrop feature on an iPhone. These images are typically of male genitalia.

AirDrop requires the recipient’s Apple device to be nearby in order for an image to be transferred, meaning perpetrators can be just feet away from when they hit ‘send’.

Professor McGlynn, an expert in the legal regulation of pornography, image-based sexual abuse and sexual violence, says that the Ministry of Justice ‘so far just keep refusing to act’ despite a number of reports and calls for change in legislation. 

She argued that, regardless of the ‘tangible impact’ of cyber-flashing, it remains a ‘breach of civil liberties’. 

She said: ‘The bottom line is we shouldn’t have to deal with this sort of thing. We shouldn’t have to change our AirDrop settings to private, or chastise ourselves for not doing so in the first place…

‘Cyber-flashing infringes our right to everyday life, a life without looking over our shoulder, worrying what’s around the corner.’ 

The AirDrop app, which is specific to iOS devices such as iPads and iPhones, as well as Apple Macs, uses wi-fi and Bluetooth to connect over a short range to other devices.

Its default setting is for ‘contacts only’, which means only people you know can see you.

But to share information with other people, users can make a change to the settings and change it to ‘everyone’. 

The setting allows anyone to send an image to that device where – unlike other messages apps such as WhatsApp or SMS – the photograph automatically appears on the screen.

It is then up to the user to choose to ‘accept’ the image, although they will have already seen a preview.  

How does AirDrop work and how can you change your settings?

Airdrop is a feature on iOS devices such as iPads and iPhones, as well as Macs which allows Apple users to share data over Bluetooth.

The technology works by creating a peer-to-peer network between devices so people can share pictures with friends or between their iPhone and iPad.

Unlike messaging or picture apps such as Snapchat, WhatsApp or even SMS – where a user must accept the picture to view it. 

Once an image is shared over Airdrop it pops up on the receiver’s screen unbidden.

The feature’s default setting is for ‘contacts only’, which means only people you know can see you.

But once a user has accepted a message from a previously unknown contact, this automatically changes to ‘everyone.’ 

This means that device is visible to anyone with an iOS device or Mac so users run the risk of being sent undesirable content by strangers. 

Currently, Airdrop is only available on Apple and there is no direct equivalent on Android smartphones.

Users are recommended to ensure their settings are on ‘contacts only’ to prevent abuse.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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