Sex Tech: SXSW 2012 Privacy and Sex Session Highlights

Sex Tech: SXSW 2012 Privacy and Sex Session Highlights

Summary: Significant panels and sessions at SXSW 2012 explore hot-button issues of privacy and sexuality.

TOPICS: Browser

Every year at SXSW Interactive, pressing themes emerge in the conference lineup that reflect current trends and hot issues that challenge internet businesses and website users.

At the same time, it's difficult not to be cynical seeing themes and trends that reflect a culture of relentless corporate self-promotion and the predictable parade of sessions that masquerade as valid content but are shallow vehicles for startup pitches and brand launches.

Spotting genuine hot topics isn't actually that difficult. Attendees are encouraged to vote with their feet, and they do.

Distractingly, this year a significant number of sessions have added the word "sexy" or "sex" (and even claim they will tie in the topic of sex to subjects like big data) in bids to grab attention.

This led some pundits to opine that there were a lot of sex panels - and that Monday is a "sexy day" - when in actuality the sessions simply had "sex" in the title and the sex and tech sessions are well distributed across conference days.

What's particularly of interest to me at SXSW 2012 is that the topic of sex is closely married to an increasingly strong focus on data and personal privacy, combined with anonymity and security - especially in how these issues relate to social networks.

If you're attending the conference (or simply want to see what's got key internet figures talking about privacy, security and human sexuality) check out my SXSW 2012 Sex Tech highlights below.

  • Debate: Should Social Sites Allow Anonymous Users? - Saturday March 10, 2012 11:00am-12:00pm. Facebook has taken a firm position that it will require real names, even at the cost of disappearances of human rights activists around the world. Other sites have suffered as anonymous speakers poison the conversation and use the shield of anonymity to harass women. What's a social site to do? Join two of the Internet's top lawyers, EFF's Legal Director Cindy Cohn and Colette Vogele, as they debate the issue.

  • Sex Nets: Pickup Artists vs. Feminists - Saturday March 10, 2012 6:30pm-7:30pm. A panel of men and women ranging from seasoned pick-up artists, to outspoken feminist bloggers examine the realities of social media and geolocation technologies and whether or not the digital pickup artist is ethical - or successful.

  • Security and Privacy in Social Networks - Sunday March 11, 2012 5:00pm-6:00pm. This panel including a Twitter security engineer and an EFF activist explores the interplay between user privacy, social networking sites, law enforcement, and the teams of people that are tasked with both enforcing and protecting the users of these sites.

  • Sex, Lies and Cookies: Web Privacy EXPOSED! - Monday March 12, 2012 12:30pm-1:30pm. Heavy hitter panelists including security researcher Christopher Soghoian look into the world of data collection and privacy on the internet, asking tough questions about what “tracking” really entails.

  • Sex, Dating and Privacy Online (Disclosure: I am on this panel) - Monday March 12, 2012 5:00pm-6:00pm. Panel covers having a social media life and writing about about sex, participation in online dating sites, and the tricky task of maintaining personal privacy.

  • En/Forced Femme: Sex Workers and Social Media - Monday March 12, 2012 6:30pm-7:30pm. In light of privacy and personal security issues like Porn Wikileaks and the Google Plus nymwars, sex worker Kitty Stryker investigates what these issues mean for people in the business of sex.

  • This Talk Is NSFW: Nudity and Online Journalism - Tuesday March 13, 2012 5:00pm-6:00pm. The web editor from LA Weekly covers the myriad issues bloggers, journalists and web writers face when the subjects being covered are overtly sexual in nature.

Topic: Browser

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  • The Corporate war on sex

    How about this for a panel: Should corporations, especially those who are essentially a monopoly, be allowed to censor or ban content that their services are used to purchase?
    Paypal is now censoring and banning erotic content -- LEGAL erotic content. How are their actions NOT illegal? The simple answer is that in Puritan run USA, if it involves sex, and you want to censor it, the First Amendment no longer applies.
    • who does the constitution protect you against

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but neither the First Amendment nor any of the rest of the Bill of Rights prohibit such actions by private corporations. But you can choose not to deal with them and take your business elsewhere. The Constitution is there to protect us against oppressive actions by our state and federal governments. P.S. why are we wading through 2 identical postings from The Internet Social Weal that are so long each could be considered an article?
  • The Internet Social Weal

    The disadvantage is seeing only the topics, the abstracts and not getting the most of the forums due to inability to attend. I find myself hesitating to post links to topics that are older than six months. More questionably, if it's older than six months it needs to be less than news and if it's a year or older, it can only be an image or video. To this point, I find myself considering these questions without knowing how they would have changed my life when I first logged onto the internet in 1996.

    The "real name" policy in some cases is defeated by the fact that if people want to use their real names, there are times when in trying to establish the account, one can find it's already taken. The paradigm often doesn't support the idea of a real name with the exception of some services that seem to demand or encourage it such as Facebook and Google+. The down sides to using a real name can be distinct. When I first began using Facebook I found a page for artists, poets and persons that were also Bipolar. The author of the page was forced to rebrand the name of that page. As a person with that illness and trying to rebuild his life after a financial loss, he found that businesses he was dealing with used the internet to do background checks, found the Facebook page and used the content to deny employment or terminate business relationships. Apparently, even for identities not requiring real names a shield is not guaranteed. Being able to track people and privacy seems to be more of a problem for the users of Microsoft as .exe files can be dropped into a computer and gather information in a way the Mac OS haven't historically had and this seems to remain a problem. However, people's lives are routinely being destroyed or having freedoms restricted in ways I never considered would be an issue by merely logging onto the internet more than fifteen years ago. I'm really thankful it's not happened to me.

    The way personal information can be gathered, disseminated has become alarming. As of this writing, I am looking at a preview of an Anderson Cooper broadcast that is dealing with the issue of a web site that is building a database of people known to have STD's and publishing them on the internet. The only option seems to be, don't use SNS or at least minimize those of the prime offenders that are gathering the information while it also is making it available to the entire internet by way of Google or perhaps other search engines. This remains minimally a way to avoid some infringement of privacy.

    It may seem unthinkable to eject Facebook out of one's life but it is possible. Even while a member of Facebook and using my real name, my visibility in Search Engines was nil. I have a very common name which I never appreciated until I realized how difficult that would make me traceable. So I think it's a delicate issue. A true identity can lead to negative outcomes if it leads to someone finding things in a medical history that leads to stigmatization and a concealed identity can lead to questionable behavior or a way for a concealed identity to become a lurking or stalking presence.

    Both the host and user present instances having potential for abuse. I don't think there's a clear answer other than I think the potential for massive misuse is greater on the part of a hosting site, the way the information on a user can be collected and resold. As you've noted before VioletBlue, "the Devil is in the details...the fine print". Rule of thumb, keep at least one "dummy" email account that leaves you traceless or at least in the position of being untroubled by spam or possibly undisturbed by it being relentlessly in your Inbox.

    Additionally, I routinely delete all my browser cookies and begin again. Even if I have to re-enter user name or password, it's worth it to me when if a cookie is dropped on me and I don't have a way to know when it expires. I recommend becoming the user determines when it expires. Delete it.

    Sex, dating and online privacy. The internet killed my love life or at least a way to pursue it by way of dating sites, I have found other methods. Due to an early discovery of how information can be gathered I've rejected the idea that meeting someone online will ever be possible. Every syllable in Chat or eMail can be recorded and traced and the alternative is to minimize it or not use it. We've ridden a wave of the internet paradigm from it's inception and in that we the users have had little to do with the way it affects our lives with the exception of determining how far it will intrude which often goes without consideration. I've concluded "less is more" when it comes to interpersonal contact on line. Form and maintain relationships in real life, minimize the internet. The internet is not your friend, your best friends may be better served and kept far away from it.
    Become a telepath, it's safer.
  • REal names

    What is to stop someone from using a FAKE real name?