No matter what, remember the number one rule: You should always be able to say no. Not just to taking or sharing the photos initially, but anything that comes after. If you don’t want a partner to share your images, post them online, or store them somewhere unsafe, or if you want them to delete the photos at any time, you should be able to ask for that. If someone tries to take that option away from you, they’re not respecting your consent and they might not be a good person to share sensitive images with.
Crop Out or Hide Identifying Features (and Data)
It’s entirely possible, even with a partner you trust, for photos of you to get out. Your phone or your partner’s phone could get hacked, a wayward gallery app could be left open, or someone who used to be trustworthy could break that trust. Regardless of the circumstances, one key way to minimize harm if that happens is to make sure the pictures you take have as little identifying information in them as possible.
This can include cropping photos to cut out faces or identifiable parts of the background. If you crop out your face but there’s an artwork on the wall that your family knows is yours, the picture could still be traced to you. Blurring or censoring tattoos is a good idea (your phone usually has tools you can use to draw over images), but also keep in mind that the location of tattoos itself can be used to identify you.
Also, don’t forget to remove identifying data. If your phone’s camera automatically adds location data to your photos, turn that off. Photos also come with a ton of other embedded information called EXIF data. Stripping that information from your photos before sharing them will help ensure that no one else can figure out when, where, and how a photo was taken.
Turn Off Cloud Backups, and Store Photos Privately
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Once you take photos, you’ll want to keep tabs on where they end up. This can be tough if your phone is backing them up to your desktop, tablet, and the cloud before you’re even done taking them. To avoid this, you have two options: Either turn off cloud backups or use a different app that doesn’t automatically back up photos. For example, while Snapchat has its own cloud backup features, taking photos with Snapchat won’t automatically back up to Google Photos. So you could take normal photos with your regular camera app, but take more risqué photos using Snapchat and save them locally just to your phone.
This is also where features like Google’s Locked Folder or Apple’s Hidden albums come in handy. Google’s version will only keep a copy of anything in the Locked Folder on your phone, which prevents it from accidentally showing up elsewhere. While Apple still allows iCloud to sync files that are in a Hidden album, those files will stay hidden on all the devices they’re synced to.
If your phone or device doesn’t already have a feature to hide photos, you can still keep them stored safely on your own. A password-protected folder on your device or even external storage like an SD card or USB drive can be a safe place to store photos once you’re done editing and sharing them.
Use Secure Messaging Apps (Read: Not Facebook) to Send Photos
Once your nudes leave your phone, it’s no longer entirely in your control who sees them. Any server where they’re temporarily (or permanently) stored could be a potential place where photos get leaked or stolen. One of the best ways to avoid that problem is to use encrypted messaging apps like Signal or Telegram.