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Camgirl OPSEC: How the World's Newest Porn Stars Protect Their Privacy Online

Tips for those who expose themselves for a living.
October 13, 2015, 12:00pm
What Shutterstock thinks a cam girl looks like. Image: Shutterstock

Raise your hand if you've ever paid for porn.

The number of people whose hands are raised right now has been getting lower and lower every year—piracy has always been rampant, and more recently tube sites (most of which are owned by a single company) offer all-you-can-watch porn for absolutely free.

However, pornography is a resilient concept; it changes over time, depending on what society desires, and what it rejects. The dawn of the internet put porn in more hands than ever, but traditional porn never really integrated with contemporary technology.

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Sure, there were a few troubling/terrifying attempts, like the LaunchPad sold by Fleshlight. (For the uninitiated, the LaunchPad is a warm flesh-like hole that you can strap to your iPad. What you do after is your own business. And secretly, I think certain Apple fans might have always wanted the chance to consummate their allegiance to the brand.)

For all the potential the web offered the adult industry, it ended up being like everything else in technology: slightly better, slightly faster, slightly boring.

The time was right for a new kind of porn, one that takes advantage of the explosion in high-speed internet, cheap cloud hosting, and ubiquitous social media that's taken place over the last decade.

Camgirl #OpSec tip: I know craft beers are delicious, but they circumscribe your location to a very tight circle.
— CognoscoCuro (@CognoscoCuro) October 10, 2015

"Where do I live? I live somewhere you can buy Budweiser. Have fun."
— CognoscoCuro (@CognoscoCuro) October 10, 2015

And that new kind of porn is coming from adult webcam sites. "Camming" is live, interactive, and incredibly empowering to its stars. In addition to regular live shows, they plan/shoot/edit their own videos, which they then sell direct to fans. The only intermediary is the webcam site itself.

Live shows also partially sidestep the problem of piracy: show recordings are prevalent, but viewers miss out on a crucial portion of the show by not watching it live, similar to how watching a recorded sports event never quite feels the same.

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And by developing personal relationships with customers over time, camgirls also benefit from an idiosyncratic economic truth: the people most likely to have the largest cache of their material are also the ones least likely to want to harm them by dispersing it for free. Exceptions abound, but psychologically it's much harder to steal from a person than a faceless company.

In short, camming is to traditional pornography what Bane was to Batman: one merely adopted the internet, the other was born in it, molded by it.

But with modern technology comes modern problems: swatting, doxxing, and the fact that on most sites, there's a large chat window right by the camgirl's face, into which anyone with a credit card can say anything.

I spoke with a well-established camgirl, NataliaGrey, of the popular website MyFreeCams, about how she keeps herself safe online. The first step is protecting your location.

The job of a camgirl is, at a base level, making strangers on the internet eventually come to like you

"Pandora, and plenty of other websites, use location based ads," she said. "Pandora lets you choose your location with a zip code, so just put another one in. Some are IP based, so use a VPN [virtual private network].

"Speaking of VPNs, use one. If you use Skype, there's Skype Resolvers out there that can show your IP by simply entering a username.

"Amazon wishlists reveal your town, which is why people use PO boxes. Even if you live in fucking NYC, where no one would be able to find you based on the city name, you should probably still use a PO box.

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"People can simply call Amazon/the shipper and find out the address their purchase was sent to if they pry enough. I don't know what the company policy is for this, but it's happened.

"If you do have your real address on it, definitely make sure third party items are not on your wishlist and that you don't allow them to have your address, because if it's not sold by Amazon.com there's a chance they'll straight up email the purchaser with the address.

"Also make sure you don't go to your PO box alone, because someone may be waiting for you there, especially if you publicly reveal your PO box address and/or say specifically when you'll be going to it.

"Google Voice provides fake numbers, so you can use them for texting, or any apps/sites that require a number."

As long as people still have genitals, porn isn't going away. But the form it takes will morph and evolve. As online sex work becomes more and more popular, it will have to deal with the same security challenges all online businesses face; not to mention the public attention, sometimes public outrage, that sex work in the public eye inevitably draws.

But these are not your average porn stars. The job of a camgirl is, at a base level, making strangers on the internet eventually come to like you. So if anyone can deal with the heavy weight of online fame, you'd be safe betting on a camgirl.

CognoscoCuro is a cam girl fan, Canadian database specialist, and amateur information security enthusiast.