Unless you're a porn star, or otherwise want everyone on the Internet to see you naked, it is always -- 100 percent of the time -- a bad idea to post nude photos of yourself anywhere on the Internet. What goes up must come down, and when risque pics go online, they will be found.
BuzzFeed has drawn attention to one such application of this maxim: An activity called "fusking," in which any snoop can easily trawl through your pictures on the image hosting site Photobucket, even if they are private or password protected, in search of your nude or otherwise compromising photos. Though fusking has been around in some form for over a decade and can be effective on several image hosting sites, this new BuzzFeed report seems likely to renew interest and cause a surge in fresh Photobucket fuskers.
In other words, if you have dirty pictures on Photobucket, it's time to go delete them right now.
The process by which one fusks is actually kind of ingenious, if you don't stop to think about the moral or ethical implications of the activity. On Photobucket, each picture you upload has an individual URL, which makes it convenient to message friends and family with a link to a specific photo. Photobucket is set up such that even if you designate an entire photo album as private or password-protected, you can still send out a link to an individual photo, and a friend will be able to view it (just not the rest of the album).
Here's where the fusking starts: Most digital cameras and smartphones save the pictures that you take with sequential names, i.e. IMG_001.jpg, IMG_002.jpg, IMG_003.jpg, etc. Unfortunately, that's exactly how a photo you upload to Photobucket is saved, too, in its URL: Something like http://photobucket.com/image/USERNAME/IMG_001.jpg. So, if you make available one photo from that private album, it would be exceptionally easy for anyone with access to that photo to scan through the rest, by simple guesswork.
And that's a problem. Entire communities have sprung up around the Internet devoted to sniffing out and sharing NSFW pictures found via Photobucket fusking: Gawker found a section on Reddit devoted to plundering Photobucket and posting nudes and lingerie shots they find. The sub-Reddit is a bit more moralistic than other forums -- submissions can not be from private albums, and no underage posts are allowed -- though not moralistic enough that they aren't snooping around a photo sharing site and posting pictures that were surely meant to be private. And, too, re: moralism, see rule 4 of the sub-Reddit:
4. Do not follow the usernames of the girls submitted to this subreddit. When you follow them it sends an e-mail to them notifying them they're being followed. This usually either makes them cancel their photobucket or make the album private which in turn makes it so we no longer get any pictures from them.
If that doesn't send you screaming to log in to your old Photobucket account to delete any bawdy pictures you may have uploaded, then I don't know what will.
Backing up your cherished photos online is somewhat of an imperative in this day and age of malicious hackers and crashing hard drives, and we still recommend safeguarding your photos in the cloud. But when it comes to posting or sharing photos of yourself or others that you wouldn't want strangers to see, our advice, in the wake of the fusking kerfuffle, remains the same: Don't.