A Teen Finds Out What Can Happen When Private Photos Go Public (News)

Posted on November 28, 2011, in Internet, Internet Safety, News, Teens

Publication Information


by Ana Veciana-Suarez
Nov. 26, 2011

Juan and Maria Varona of Miami are struggling through a situation no parent should ever have to wrestle with. Hackers have intruded into their lives, violated their daughter’s privacy. And they want others to know that it can happen to them, too.

About four years ago, their youngest child, Angie Varona, uploaded some photos to her private Photobucket account. Among the pictures: Angie posing in her bikini and in a bra and panties, images meant only for her then-boyfriend to see. She was 14 and brash — as many teens are at that age — without the foresight to suspect what could happen next.

“It was stupid,” Angie, now 18, says. “I guess I thought I looked appealing and sexy. My self esteem wasn’t what it should’ve been either.”

Plenty of her friends were doing much of the same. Posting provocative pictures on their Facebook walls. Sending images they would later regret to boyfriends who would one day become ex-boyfriends. But Angie’s account was hacked, and six months later a school friend emailed her an ominous note: Her pictures were appearing on porn sites.

At the time, her name did not accompany her photos. That would come later. That and people posing as Angie Varona on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and assorted forums and message boards.

Eventually, the nightmarish notoriety would land the Miami teen on ABC’s Nightline to warn other girls about the possible consequences of posting provocative photos — no matter how private the website. She also recounted her story in MiamiMontage, a publication produced by high school journalism students at a University of Miami summer program.

“All this time, I wish I had listened to my parents,” she says. “None of this would’ve happened and I would just be living through the regular drama of high school.”

Remembering that initial discovery still makes her shudder. “I was crying hysterically. I couldn’t believe it,” she says. And she didn’t know then how bad it would get. Over the next four years, she would become an unwitting and unwilling Internet sex symbol.

She immediately told her parents, who went to Miami-Dade police and hired a lawyer. The cops couldn’t do anything about it. There was no nudity in the photos, so it didn’t qualify as child pornography. But it was the family’s introduction to the underworld of child erotica.

“Some of those sites had girls younger than Angie, naked,” recalls Juan Varona, a teacher. “Kids take pictures of themselves in the bathroom and don’t understand how others can just hack into their accounts.”

Varona says he was disappointed in his daughter when he found out what had happened. He and his wife had warned her about the perils of the Internet. As a teacher, he was aware of the growing problem of teens posting and sending nude or semi-nude photos of themselves. But he also recognized that Angie’s photos were no more than “bathing suit shots. It wasn’t any different than what you see other girls wearing on the beach or in Victoria’s Secret (catalogs).”

The family’s lawyer emailed some of the websites to ask that the unauthorized photos be taken down. A few complied. One hacker was tracked to Spain, too, and for a few months the Varonas thought the problem might be contained.

Find full article here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/11/26/2520043/a-teen-finds-out-what-can-happen.html#ixzz1f1nTvN00


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