On-Line Privacy Guidelines
DESIRE Online Privacy Guide
Staying safe while engaging online
If you are reading this guide, you may be familiar with RACK, or Risk Aware Consensual Kink. This concept of risk awareness also applies to how we engage online, and can be extremely useful in protecting your privacy.
Before you participate in any sort of virtual meetings (regardless of who hosts the event), ask yourself…
- Am I comfortable with strangers online seeing my face on camera?
- Am I comfortable having my voice heard (e.g. if asking a question in class verbally) and possibly recognized?
- Am I comfortable with my participation being possibly recorded without my consent and possibly showing up elsewhere later? *DESIRE does NOT record any portion of the event.
- Have I taken due diligence to protect my own privacy/safety?
- Is my real name showing up in profile or display name for Zoom or the software used?
- Have you made sure your location is not shared with other participants?
- Does my profile have an email address visible? If so, have I made sure it is not something that might be identifiable and potentially out me (e.g. realName@google.com)
- Am I logged out of my regular or work Zoom account so my legal name won’t be displayed as default?
DESIRE will be using Zoom and Discord for the event. Certain browser settings (such as those related to cookies, see below) may interfere with the program’s performance, so users having technical difficulties are advised to try accessing the meeting with a different browser.
Remember, your online risk assessment may be tighter or looser than someone else’s. It is best to assume that others will have laxer practices than your own, and not to rely on them to protect your privacy. Respect that everyone has a different risk profile, and take responsibility for your own safety and comfort.
With this said, here are some steps you can take to protect yourself:
Outside Your Computer
- Put opaque tape over your webcam if you don’t want to be seen. You can also use a button to hide your video in the app, if you trust the app – but even if you don’t trust it, the tape will definitely work.
- Consider wearing a mask so that you are not recognizable on camera.
- Mute your microphone if you don’t want to be heard – the microphone is probably built into your computer or phone so there’s no way to “put tape on” it. There should be a mute button on the app you’re using.
- Make sure that nobody in adjacent rooms can hear the audio from your computer (e.g. wear headphones rather than using a speaker). This is especially important if you live in an apartment or other place with thin walls, or are not out to those you live with.
- Assume that anything visible or audible can be screenshotted and/or recorded by all other attendees in the worst case, and be aware of what you say/do accordingly.
- Make sure no one under 18 is in the background or can see/ hear any part of the event.
In Your Web Browser
Cookies are small files that live in your web browser and store information about the websites you visit. An identifying cookie with a unique ID is often used to trace the pages you visit within a site, to develop a list of the pages you’ve visited. Theoretically cookies can only be accessed by the website that created them – the catch to this is that any website maintainer can choose to include tracking codes on their own site to sync information with Facebook, Google, and other tracking companies. Facebook in particular is known for recommending “people you may know” who use similar websites, locations, etc, as you do – so if you don’t want information to be shared between Facebook and any other website, don’t visit them at the same time on the same browser, which can be accomplished in a few different ways.
If you regularly use your computer under a vanilla identity that you want to keep separate from the identity you attend kink events with, any of the following should work:
- Install a separate web browser just for classes. Don’t log into non-kink accounts with it.
- If it’s important to you to use the same interface for your web browser, you can make a second user account on your computer that you only log into for your second identity.
- Clear all cookies in your web browser before and after viewing classes. This will log you out of your accounts. If you forget to clear both before and after, it may be possible to connect the things that happened “during” to either “before” or “after”.
- Go into “private browsing” mode in your web browser, and only open the class in a “private” window. You should close all private windows in the browser, open a new one just for it and close immediately after you’re done. (Holding the ctrl, shift, P keys at once on Firefox opens private browsing; ctrl, shift, and N in Chrome, other browsers may have different shortcuts.)
- Create a separate login account in Microsoft Word and only do kink related activities when logged into that account.
Using a VPN
Your internet service provider, or ISP, (Spectrum, FiOS, etc) can view all the pages you’ve requested to view (though they cannot view the content you see on them, if you’re using HTTPS links rather than HTTP) and they can tie them back to your physical location. The way they do this is with a publicly available ID they assign to your location when you browse the internet, called an IP address. Having an IP address is a core part of how the internet works and can’t be avoided. VPN software encrypts your internet traffic, and sends it through a different IP address owned by the VPN company. This is good if you don’t want the person who pays for your internet, or the person who can log in to your router, to see what you’re doing. It’s also good if you don’t want the person who owns the website you’re visiting to see what internet service provider you use and your approximate location (to within town/city level, usually – only the ISP knows the specific physical address of your IP address.). The downside to this is that you have to trust the VPN company with that information now instead of your ISP.
How to stay safe
Find a trusted VPN to use if you’re worried about website owners knowing your approximate location or, more importantly, if you’re worried about the person who pays for the internet in your house finding out about your usage. Check their privacy policies to make sure you can live with what they do with your information. Avoid using VPNs owned by companies known to aggregate user data, such as Facebook, Amazon, or Google. Do not use a VPN provided by your employer. You might have to research and you’ll likely have to pay monthly for this service. There may be technical setup, so check that your IP address is different when the VPN is on and when it’s off.
- Comparison of VPN services:
- Choosing a VPN
- Which VPN Services Keep You Anonymous (note the ones at the beginning of the article sponsor the site)
- How to check your VPN is working:
This document was revised and shared by DESIRE 2021 with permission. It was inspired by the class ‘Managing Your Kink Online’ taught for TES by RiggerJay.