This story appears in VICE magazine and Broadly's 2018 Privacy and Perception Photo Issue.
It was a warm evening, and my old friend—let’s call her Chloe—and I were sitting in a Tibetan eatery in Berlin. After gossiping about our times in high school, we began telling stories of our final summers spent in rural France, where we grew up.
Drunk on rice wine and nostalgia, Chloe divulged that at the age of 17, she began answering online ads to pose as a “nude model.” She’d never told anyone before, she said. The secret got me excited; we were sharing classified stories. In turn, I revealed that around my 18th birthday, a mysterious woman befriended me on MSN Messenger and offered to hire me as a “web model.” Before I could finish the story, Chloe interrupted. “Was her name Alicia Pimprelle1?” she blurted out. Chills ran down my spine. Seeing my face, she shouted in disbelief—so loudly that the waitress nearby almost dropped the soup off her tray.
Turns out, Chloe and I had both been approached around the year 2007. On the same platform. By the same woman—or at least people using the same name.
Recalling the experience, I was jolted back to that spring day when it all started. I was MSN chatting about school exams and reviewing my university applications when this so-called Alicia popped onto my screen. You’ve got to remember—this was long before the online world we’re used to today. Then, it wasn’t common for dodgy outsiders to request access to your digital shell. Receiving friend requests on MSN felt safe.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.