So last week, Fetlife (a BDSM website that I’ve recommended several times to budding feederists) got “hacked”—that is, a long-time sex blogger named Maymay created a mirror site which made
everything on parts of Fetlife not set to “friends only” visible and searchable on Google.
The Fetlife team took steps to block Maymay from doing this (Fellow Fetlife user WryGuy wrote a great post detailing the process for the non-technical among us here) but let me repeat: FETLIFE GOT GOOGLED. If you had face pics or any other sensitive information in your profile that wasn’t locked down under “friends only”, I highly suggest you go search yourself and any internet handles you might have to see if any unexpected connections have been made, then go on your profile and lock shit down under “friends only”. (If you work in a non-kink-friendly environment but still want to put stuff on the Internet, you might also want to check out Belle Du Jour’s post on How to Blog Anonymously.)
The day after all this shit went down, Maymay posted a blog post linking back to his past writings on Fetlife security, saying,
“In other words, I’m not FetLife’s enemy, despite FetLife’s and many of its users’ insistence to the contrary.”
Unfortunately, he seems to have forgotten that just a little while prior he wrote another post talking about how hurt he was by the scene paying more attention to Jack’s call for an alternative to Fetlife than his:
“So, my former cultural home, let’s get one thing perfectly fucking straight: I could let you burn. In fact, the more you treat me the way you have for years, the more I’d be happy to see your precious frakking “community” burn. Yeah, you’re right not to trust me, because I’m just as likely to throw my weight behind lighting the goddamned fire myself as I am to pick up a bucket of water and help you put out the flames you let start from your own petrified inaction.”
I’m wondering what kind of mental gymnastics Maymay has to do to manage to hold both these opinions at once—that he is both the “savior” of The Scene and that he wants to burn it to the ground—because it would seem that they’d cancel each other out. I’m having flashbacks to The Dark Knight Rises, where Bane does a great job of seeming to turn Gotham into an Occupy-style anarchist paradise, except in reality he has an atom bomb and just really wants to blow the place up. Just as how his actions reveal that Bane doesn’t really care about the populace of Gotham, the very fact that Maymay did this to hundreds of people’s data shows that he doesn’t really care about anyone in “The Scene”, no matter how many blog posts he writes about how “anyone could have done this” (in which case I want a list of everyone else who’s done this in the past year. Forget these theoretical Anonymous users: you did it, bucko, so take some responsibility).
What really blows my mind about Maymay’s actions last week is the anger he displays at not being listened to—calling people who don’t have knowledge of internet security “Fetlife sycophants”. He seems to assume that the fact that he wrote several blog posts about this was enough to make everyone on Fetlife as informed on the issue as he was. (I’m pretty sure Maymay’s Internet reach is much further than mine, but I doubt it was enough to educate everyone that needed to know.)
Surely, Maymay has to realize that most people in The Scene are at the same level of knowledge of internet security that American culture is as a whole—that is, they suck at it? In March of this year Violet Blue blogged about the stalker-ish Girls Around Me app, which scraped publicly available information off of Facebook without female user’s knowledge. Cult of Mac blogger John Brownlee called it a “Facebook privacy wake-up call”, blogging eloquently about his friends’ reactions to the app, and what it said about our larger culture’s technological literacy:
“…like many tech professionals, I had taken for granted that people understood that their Facebook profiles and Foursquare data were publicly visible unless they explicitly said otherwise… and like my bearded Diaspora friend, I secretly believed that people who were exposed this way on the Internet without their knowledge were foolish.
“It was in just this spirit that I’d shown off the app to my friends in the first place. It was getting late, we were all drunk or on the verge of getting there, and it had been a perfect day. It would have been so nice to finish things with a laugh. But now, as six intelligent, sophisticated friends from a variety of backgrounds surrounded me — some looking sick, some looking angry, and some with genuine fear in their faces — I didn’t think Girls Around Me was so funny. It had cast a pall across a beautiful day, and it had made people I loved feel scared… not just for the people they loved, but for complete strangers.”
If Maymay really cared about making a change without also being malicious, he could have created the script and sent it to John Baku as a warning, rather than actually going through with it. He could have taught more classes teaching people in the scene the importance of Internet security and intros to basic code. He could have joined with the many other scenesters with technical knowledge and helped to build something that was safe. Instead, he did the equivalent of breaking into a bank to show that their security was faulty… and then swiped people’s bank information and posting it on the internet for the LULZ.
I can already hear the whining about how The Fetlife Team wouldn’t listen! and the counterpoint of People are too close-minded to listen to me! I dunno, dude… maybe you should stop taking people like GirlWritesWhat seriously (she supports DV, among other things), or ignoring rape survivors, and you’d get a better reception. Also, even though the Fetlife team decided to do squat, that does not give you the right to take random people’s data and do what you like with it. Why, after taking my own data from me and putting my less-tech savvy friends at risk, would I join you to “FORCE something better”? That’s called “having a hissy fit”, not “putting my best interests at heart”.
Full disclosure: Maymay started several projects that to some degree shaped my ideas of what BDSM is and could be, such as Male Submissive Art and the Kink on Tap podcast (I was a guest on the latter). I also took part in the first DC Kink for All and was one of the organizers for the second, which probably gelled my interest in social media as a possible calling. But I am sick and tired of the conversation on the future of tech in BDSM being dominated by someone who sounds like a Batman villain, only with a pettier agenda and less fun fanfic being written about them. We need more people talking about Internet privacy, more people in the scene with tech knowledge blogging publicly about the issues which affect us, and more people who are willing to critique The Scene’s policies without putting the rest of us at risk.
In the meantime, here’s a too-short list of people who are doing similar writing on sex and tech (and if you or someone you read is doing something similar, please get in touch!)
- Violet Blue, who runs both the sex blog Tiny Nibbles and writes about “pulp tech” for ZDNet, blogs about the cutting edge of information sharing as often as she reviews the newest porn site.
- Kirr (currently posting only on Fetlife) has written in great detail about Fetlife’s security issues.
Correction: changed “everything on Fetlife” to “parts of Fetlife" on 8/19/12.