Mon. Aug 8th, 2022

In my 13 years in law enforcement I have seen a lot of ugly things and in the last several years I have noticed a very disturbing trend. Initially it can seem like innocent fun with a group of friends or your significant other, but it can scar you for the rest of your life. Webcams.Well, realistically speaking, this includes cell phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDA), digital cameras or anything else that creates digital photographs or movies.

The trend is young people allowing others to take digital photographs of them in compromising positions (i.e., naked or engaged in a sex act). We are all adults here and yes people can do what they want (within the law) in the privacy of their home, but there is something many people don’t realize. Digital photographs last forever.

Once a compromising photograph has been taken, you should assume that it will end up on the Internet and when it does there is no going back. Unlike photographs that come from actual film, digital photographs don’t deteriorate. It is also very easy to share images with millions of people via Peer-to-Peer networks. There are no negatives and no way to tear up all the pictures of a digital photograph. There is no way to know how many times the image has been copied, e-mailed or downloaded. Even if the image or movie is deleted it can easily be retrieved. A million people could try for the rest of their lives to eradicate one image from the Internet and would fail because there could always be that one copy that someone is keeping to himself or herself.

Most people think that their significant other or friend would never do that to them. What they fail to consider is that relationships change and in the heat of the moment people can do vengeful things. Have you had the same friends all your life? Did you ever have a best friend who now you can’t stand? Does your significant other have nosy siblings or roommates? Even if you stay 100 percent committed in all your relationships, there are other unforeseen events that could cause your image be posted to the Internet.

There is no way to know how most of these pictures get on the Internet absent of a confession. In my six years investigating computer crime, I have seen a lot of these images and movies and they are really quite sad. Most are of young women who are making movies for their boyfriends. Others are of young women and men exposing themselves via webcams. Most don’t seem to realize that the person watching on the other end can record what they see. I don’t even want to get into hidden cameras.

So who cares if college students want to have fun and want to be a little risqu? Remember that these images will be around forever. Most employers will conduct Google searches on prospective employees and if they don’t find images that way, they might in their “leisure time” since there are many Web sites that post these images and movies. Not to mention your family or friends might find them.

Jon S. Nelson is a part-time student at WCU.

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