Abby Budiman SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News)- Just last week, the online world was shaken when news came out that thousands of personal photos from the popular Smartphone application, Snapchat, were leaked to the Internet. This incident was infamously coined “Snappening” by the online community. The 87,000 photos and 9,000 videos were obtained from a third-party application, called “SnapSave”, an application that specializes in storing and organizing the said photos and videos from Snapchat.
What’s most concerning about the incident is that most of the material distributed online were “explicit” in nature. And in many cases, these “explicit” pictures are of young women, some of them minors. This is not surprising, knowing that Snapchat’s largest user demographic are users between the ages of 13-25 years old, according to Business Insider.
So what does this mean for the thousands of students in Syracuse University who actively use Snapchat and are part of that age demographic? Many of them are worried and angry that their personal materials may be potentially taken away by hackers and distributed to the public for no apparent reason. The question of online privacy and security have yet again become an issue for them.
When asked about her opinion on “Snappening”, one student said she feels that “Snapchat is really a dangerous tool for people who aren’t aware of the repercussions it could cause.”
Another spoke out for the female victims of the incident, he asked, “Is it bad that [women are] taking nudes? Or is it bad that people are going to see it?”
One freshman student simply remarked, “I really… don’t understand how these hackers have a life.”
Staff members of the university are equally concerned for the online safety of students in applications like Snapchat. Member of SU’s Advocacy Center and therapist, Tekhara Watson, is one of these concerned staffs. She advice students to rethink to “whom” and “why” they are sending their ‘explicit’ snaps, “Knowing their intention and who they are, what they would do with these pictures, and then going back to your intention of sending that picture, are important things to think about.”
However, as an aside, is there another way that we can view this “Snappening” incident?
Assistant Professor from the iSchool, Jeff Hemsley, thinks so. He says that though “Snappening” “is” very much a concerning issue, it is largely overplayed by the media. He said , “Social media can just kind of inflame it. And if it gets really big on social media, then journalists pay attention to it as an important thing that people are talking about.”
He told us to take a breath of relief, as none of the leaked pictures had names associated with them, and therefore, are not readily identifiable.
Hemsley did however, note that student should realize by now that hacks and photo leaks are ever so common in the online world. And so, they should always be conscious of what they are posting. He gives a realistic advice to students, “If you do want to send anything “sexy”, at least don’t include your face in the material. Because once it’s there [on the Internet], it’s always going to be there.”
Ultimately, the take home message here is that students, whose lives are so strongly attached to online activities, should always practice more conscious sharing behavior online.