March 30, 2013 11:09 AM   Subscribe

One of my kinks is being watched by strangers online. How can I make sure this is safe?

I get off on being watched by strangers while I masturbate. I am probably hopelessly naive in terms of what might make this a bad idea, and obviously I read that horrifying article about hackers and assholes remotely controlling webcams. Is there something I should be doing to make this safer?

I just use the built-in camera on my MacBook and connect to a video chatroom like those on chatrandom. I have thought about the possibility of, like, accidentally broadcasting my IP address or exposing a system vulnerability, and yes, it has occurred to me that I could be recorded. (I try to conceal my face and identifying marks.) But I can't use chatrandom with a web-based proxy service and I don't know if these are just risks I'll have to accept? Any advice would be helpful. I'm not super-interested in joining a camming site, but I would if it's safer.
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

If you're actually afraid of someone finding out your IP address and identifying you by it... well, just go here: You'll see the kind of information available about you from your IP address (I swear the site is legit). There's really nothing to be worried about, unless you're paranoid about people possibly knowing what city you're in or what ISP you use.

You're pobably much, much safer than you think. Just don't click links from anyone in a video chatroom, don't download anything from people in a video chatroom. It's extremely unlikely that you have any remote software or viruses that would let random people remotely control the webcam on your Macbook. Keep your software up to date, scan for viruses every now and then.
posted by erst at 12:40 PM on March 30, 2013

1) You should assume that you are being recorded. There's no way for you to transmit video to another person in a way that that person can't keep a copy of it.

2) "Broadcasting an IP" isn't actually anything to worry about, it's just a scary-sounding thing that appears in sleazy ads. Any computer you communicate with over the Internet knows your IP address. However, when you're communicating with chatrandom, (I assume, I've never used it), both you and the person you're chatting with only communicate with chatrandom, and not with each other, so that person probably won't be able to get the info off of about you.

3) A virus or other compromise could certainly cause your computer to record you when you're least expecting it. But that's true even if you're not regularly masturbating in chat rooms.
posted by Hatashran at 12:50 PM on March 30, 2013

I'm a fairly paranoid person as far as privacy goes, so take the following with a hefty grain of salt. I believe the above responses are somewhat understating the risk. An IP address in and of itself doesn't seem that bad, except that (as you can see on the website), they can locate your general geographical area. For example, my IP will give you a pretty good idea of which neighborhood I live in. It practically never changes (only when they do maintenance, so about once a year at most). If a malicious person were to cross reference this information with any identifying symbols (e.g. posters of bands you like, mugs of your alma mater), they may be able to identify you.

My advice would be to remove every single unique piece of information from the video -- make it only a white wall background. Another option would be to find a safe community and set up video chats with them. They wouldn't be total strangers, but at least you're mitigating your risk a little.
posted by spiderskull at 1:31 PM on March 30, 2013

If you are also actually chatting, not just doing your thing on camera, be very careful about giving out potentially identifying information. A lot of people on the internet are really "duh" about this. So some examples:

If you tell someone you went to (unique name of local park/mall/neighborhood/whatever), that may identify your city. Or if you say that type thing about a more generically named place in one conversation but name your state/country/region in another, that might do it. Stalkers will keep files so they can put together random bits of information like that.

Also, references to time of day can help someone pinpoint your location. That can include saying something like "I just had breakfast" or "Time to hit the sack. My day starts early tomorrow."

I have seen people hide their name then post photos of the exterior of their apartment building when everyone already knew their city and country and had photos of the person. I was surprised this did not end badly.

When I was a military wife, I was careful to not mention my spouse's mood or comings and goings, etc. Although I sometimes had no idea where he was going when he left, people more in the know than me could have inferred a lot more than I could. For example, saying a military person is attending school in x month at y military base can tell some people what kind of training they are getting.

So, try to strike references to time and place from your conversation. Try to not name unique hobbies, the company you work for and so on. Anything that could potentially ID you if it were put together with one or more other bits of info.
posted by Michele in California at 1:34 PM on March 30, 2013

What, specifically, are you concerned about?

Because it seems to me that, as long as you're not revealing personally identifying information (or your face), this is much, much safer than any in person sexual encounter. And probably far safer than crossing the street or driving a car, in terms of endangering your personal safety.
posted by dontjumplarry at 2:20 PM on March 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Does the excitement come from knowing you're being watched at the time, or would you get the same surge from sharing a recorded video? If it doesn't have to be live, you might consider recording a video and submitting it to I Feel Myself. In addition to the thrill you'd get and the safety/anonymity of not being "live", I believe they pay something like $350 if they use your submission.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 2:49 PM on March 30, 2013

Isn't this why people use chat roulette?
posted by oceanjesse at 3:06 PM on March 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you are an American, consider that there is an extremely well funded and active law enforcement effort to catch sexual predators on the Internet. Despite the absence of any criminal intent on your part, I think your biggest risk comes from falling into the crosshairs of the police. This could happen if there is, unbeknownst to you, a minor at the other end of the connection, and if a criminal investigation ensues. The police have the resources to easily track you down based on your IP address. I don't know of any way to avoid this risk in the long term, other than not having sexually explicit video chats with unseen strangers.

Assuming that you have put some kind of protocol in place to ensure that there are no underage viewers in your audience, your next biggest risk is the fact that you are associating your IP address with socially embarrassing behavior, and revealing that association to the strangers you are chatting with, as well as to the chatsite operator. The chatsite operator is certainly keeping a log, and that log may persist for years. The strangers you are chatting with may also be keeping a similar log, especially if they are actively trying to gather compromising information. In a Big Data world, it is not unreasonable to assume that anything logged on a computer not under your control will at some point be put into a public database, and can later be correlated with other data that has become public, making some previously hidden associations easily accessible to the public by some generation-after-next Google. This may not be a big risk right now, but you have no real assurance that your digital footprints will ever be erased, and the risk grows every year.

My only suggestion to you would be to buy a MiFi device with cash, never associate your real name with it, and never use it for any activity associated with your real name. Only use it for your video chats, with no other apps running in the background. If you have the means, use a dedicated standalone encrypted computer for this activity, don't use it for anything else, don't load any personally identifying information on the computer, and assume at all times that it has been hacked. This measure won't keep the police from finding you if you become the target of an investigation, but it will give you an anonymous IP address which can't be traced back to you after you stop using it.

This may sound paranoid, and it probably is. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you.
posted by ParticularIndividual at 4:36 PM on March 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

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