Q989: What is 'cyber-flashing'?
Cyber-flashing is the sending of obscene pictures to others over peer-to-peer Wi-Fi networks, such as AirDrop.
AirDrop is a feature on iPhones, iPods and iMacs that uses Bluetooth to create a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi network between devices. When switched on, it automatically detects supported devices within a radius of 10 metres. Although AirDrop can be used in a harmless way as it allows people to share photos with family and friends, some people are using the facility to send obscene pictures to strangers, usually whilst they travel on trains or buses. This can take place anywhere where there is a Wi-Fi signal.
The victim receives an obscene picture on their device with a message request to accept it from the sender. The victim can see the picture whether or not they accept. This may cause the victim to be distressed and embarrassed, making them feel vulnerable, as they do not know who or why the person sending the photo has targeted them.
At present, there is no specific offence of 'cyber-flashing' but this behaviour can potentially fall within the offences of harassment or public nuisance. If you receive an obscene picture from a stranger in this way, whilst you are travelling on the rail network, take a screenshot of the photo and report the incident to the British Transport Police.
In order to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of cyber-flashing over AirDrop, you can turn Airdrop off on your iPhone when you are not using it:
1 Go to Settings > General > AirDrop
2 Choose the option – Receiving Off
This will stop your device receiving AirDrop requests.