Unsolicited Dick Pics Prompt Stupid, Unworkable Legislative Response From New York Lawmakers
from the I'm-sure-the-smart-guys-at-the-NYPD-can-figure-it-out dept
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from
magic a trenchcoat-wearing lurker. Apple’s AirDrop app, which allows anyone to share files with anyone else using the app, has become the new way to send unsolicited dick pics.
Granted, there’s a bit of a perfect storm aspect that sets it apart from the ChatRoulettes of the world. Users of the app must allow messages from “Everyone” (rather than just people on their Contacts list) and be within Bluetooth range of the amateur photographer.
Of course, since it can conceivably happen to someone, it has happened to someone. And the New York Post was there to report on the easily-avoidable menace.
Britta Carlson, 28, was riding the uptown 6 train to a concert on July 27 when a mysterious message popped up on her smartphone.
“iPhone 1 would like to share a note with you,” read the note sent at 6:51 p.m. She hit “Accept” and was horrified by what she saw. “It was just a huge close-up picture of a disgusting penis,” said Carlson, of Bushwick, Brooklyn. The message was titled “Straw” and was sent by an anonymous stranger.
“It really felt like someone had actually just flashed me.”
Well, it’s a reasonable digital facsimile. The feeling is not misplaced. The response from legislators — who feel compelled to do something when people who have removed every barrier against digital flashing are digitally flashed — is, however, more than a little misplaced.
Let’s not blame the victim. Setting AirDrop to accept messages from “Everyone” is risky, but that doesn’t justify the distribution of up-pants photography no one has asked for. But let’s not jump into the legislation-mobile just because the New York Post found two New Yorkers in a city of 8 million who ended up with unwanted junk in their AirDrop trunks.
The New York Times found a couple more women who endured the same experience while riding public transportation to introduce its reporting on the introduction of a bill by New York City legislators.
The two women were victims of what has become known as cyber flashing, a growing trend of technology-enabled sexual harassment. It has become so common that two lawmakers introduced a City Council bill on Wednesday to explicitly make it a crime, punishable by a $1,000 fine or up to a year in jail.
It’s an anti-penis pic bill targeting AirDrop that’s about as dumb as that string of words sounds. Here’s its champion, taking a tough anti-dick stance:
“In the old days, you had to have a long trench coat and good running shoes,” said Councilman Joseph Borelli, a Republican from Staten Island who is co-sponsoring the anti-flashing bill. “Technology has made it significantly easier to be a creep.”
Both of Borelli’s statements are substantially true, but it’s still unclear how the law will work or if it even can be made workable in practical terms. The bill would add “unsolicited intimate images” to the state’s existing harassment law, but nothing has been said by supporters of the bill that indicates they’ve really thought this through.
Sarah Edwards of mac4n6 has thought this through. While a certain amount of data is logged by Apple when AirDrop is used, it’s unlikely the digital detritus left behind on the victim’s phone will be of much use to law enforcement. Since the perp isn’t going to turn himself in, cops are left with only the complainant’s phone to work with. And Hein says there’s not enough there to work with.
The lack of attribution artifacts at this time (additional research pending) is going to make it very difficult to attribute AirDrop misuse. At best, if the cops are provided each device, they can pair the connections up – however this will require access to file system dumping services like Cellebrite CAS, GrayKey from GrayShift or performing a jailbreak to get the most accurate analysis. If the devices are named appropriately (ie: If Jen Mack’s iPhone was actually named ‘Jen Mack’s iPhone’) this may make an analysis easy, however I can see an instance where this can be abused to imitate someone else.
First, they’re going to need the perp’s phone. (And if they already have that, they likely can find the pic that was sent.) But how likely is that scenario? AirDrop pervs aren’t going to be turning themselves in and/or agreeing to forensic phone searches. Are cops going to get a warrant to handle a misdemeanor harassment charge involving a picture sent into the ether to be swept up by passing AirDrop users? It’s not like they’re dealing with targeted harassment which might make it easier to identify the person behind the lewd photo.
Is any judge going to OK a full-scale search for a photo used in a drive-by digital flashing? Sure, some might, but it seems unlikely law enforcement is going to put its best minds and expensive hacking tools to work to gather data that probably won’t even help them track down the sender.
And where do you go from there? You have a device ID you can tie to a person, but you still have to find that person to make the charge stick. Will the NYPD be wardriving with Stingrays to ring up petty harassment charges?
There are so many aspects of this that make zero sense. But what do you expect from reactionary lawmaking triggered by a New York Post article. The bill is so useless even one of its sponsors admits it’s little more than anti-dick pic PR:
Donovan J. Richards, a Democratic councilman from Queens and a co-sponsor of the bill, said the legislation was intended as a bipartisan effort to raise awareness — and to remove the sense of impunity that may embolden those sending the images.
So, to sum up, some people found out what happens when you turn your device into a public mailbox and lawmakers managed to turn some bad experiences into bad legislation. Of course, the blame ultimately lies with the jerkoffs who can’t keep their appendages to themselves. If people weren’t idiots, we wouldn’t need to discuss idiotic legislation quite so often. Idiots need to keep their private parts private and idiots with lawmaking power need to actually think about what they want done before they start doing something.