A New Kind of Digital Crime: Cyber Flashing
Last year the Internet focused on the much-reported backpack video of a woman being catcalled more than 100 times in three hours of walking around New York City. In that instance, the viral video showed us through digital devices the kind of harassment women--or at least women living in cities-- have to deal with every day.
Yesterday, however, that harassment was taken to a new level. Mashable reported that a woman in London was a victim of "cyber flashing," a term that might not be familiar to most people. Lorraine Crighton-Smith was riding the train to work in London when images of a penis popped up on her phone via the AirDrop function. She had left the AirDrop on after exchanging files with a friend, and quickly realized that the person who sent the photos had to be on the train as well. Her AirDrop registers as "Lorraine's iPhone," so the sender would have known it was a woman's phone.
Crighton-Smith told the BBC, "I was worried then about who else might have been a recipient, it might have been a child, somebody more vulnerable than me."
And while sending women these sorts of images is nothing new, sending them via AirDrop isn't well documented. Because Crighton-Smith rejected the pictures on her phone, the British police say it will be difficult to track who sent it. However, they insist that data included in digital crime like this makes getting away with it very difficult. British Superintendent had this to say:
"My message to offenders is clear, while you might think you can hide behind modern technology in order to carry out abuse, you leave a digital footprint and stand a very good chance of being caught, arrested and ending up on the sex offenders register."
With the relative newness of cyber flashing like this, one wonders what kind of retribution or punishment is appropriate, what sort of criminal codes it falls under, and also how many other digital devices we use daily are vulnerable to it. One of the great conveniences of modern technology is the ability to share and receive data with friends at a moment's notice, but must we also accept that that sort of convenience will also leave us--women in particular--susceptible to harassment of this kind?
In the wake of the last decade's ongoing battle with cyber bullying, we need to pay attention to crimes of this nature at this point in the arc, before they become prevalent and mainstream.