A Brief Guide to Online Privacy and Security for Sex Workers

The recent enactment of SESTA and FOSTA into law has caused considerable hardship for sex workers. Ad spaces have been eliminated or severely compromised, and censorship of our work is high. Well-known sites like Backpage and The Erotic Review have been shut down or have modified their content to reduce their risk of exposure. Anecdotally, Google is reported to ban accounts of escorts and clients for their association with sex work, and Twitter has been engaged in “shadow banning” sex workers’ content for some time now. Understandably, sex workers are concerned about keeping their content online and their identities safe. This guide will walk you through steps you can take to keep your information secure.

Online Privacy

The first step to working online privately is to use a private browser such as Tor. Tor stands for The Onion Router, and hides user location and usage, essentially preventing your activity (or at least significantly limiting it) from being monitored. You can easily download Tor for desktop and mobile platforms here.

Next step is to install a VPN on your phone or computer. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and adds another layer of security by adding data encryption and bypassing your geo-location. In a very simplistic manner, if you have a VPN client enabled, you can set your location to be completely different than where you actually are. For a very technical explanation, check out Gizmodo’s article on VPNs. And for a less-technical explanation plus a list of some great VPNs, I recommend LifeHacker’s article here.

A note: you may need to trade latency for privacy, as enabling Tor and VPNs can cause page load times to slow. Be patient.

Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, are digital assets that function similarly to currency in that you can trade it, get paid with it, and use it for purchases. It gets a bad rep because people think it’s only used for illegal stuff or that it’s too complicated to use. The fact is that many companies accept Bitcoin or other cryptos as payment; using it is becoming very commonplace.

Since SESTA became law, a new bill has been introduced into US legislature: The End Banking for Human Traffickers Act of 2018, meaning by law, the banks can close your account and seize your assets if you’re a sex worker. This has already happened to many in the adult film industry and it’s beginning to hit sex workers, too.

Every sex worker should learn about and use cryptocurrency. It enables you to pay for ads and other services without giving your personal information, and you can accept payment in cryptocurrency from clients, who also don’t need to give their private info when sending it. It means you don’t need to rely on PayPal for deposits and you can hold assets without using a bank.

Getting into this space requires that you spend a bit of time on research. Specifically you’ll want to learn where to buy and sell cryptocurrency, how to store it, and how to trade it for fiat (i.e. cash).

YouTube can give you some great tutorials on these things and it’s worth your time and effort to be familiar with it. I’ve linked some for you below:

Coinbase Exchange — US based

QuadrigaCX — Canada based

Coinsquare — Canada based

Binance — International

Kraken — US based

Websites and Hosting

By now you should understand that anything hosted or held in North America is at risk of being censored or seized, so it makes sense to go with some sort of provider that operates overseas, allows you to register anonymously, will protect your identity, and accepts cryptocurrency. This means places like GoDaddy, Host Gator, and Blue Host are out, but so are Wix and Square, which many use because they allow you to easily build and host a website without coding skills.

Rather than going with some of the big names, I recommend the following:

IT Itch. You can pay in bitcoin, register anonymously, host offshore in Europe or Asia, and use their website builder if you need to put up a site quickly.

Abelo Host. Tons of payment options, including various types of cryptocurrency. They provide offshore anonymous hosting, but don’t have a service where you can build you rown website.

Onehost Cloud. Offshore hosting is in France and Australia, although they indicate data centers Russia, Singapore, Portugal and Brazil are coming soon. They also offer a free trial.

And here’s a link to a great article that gives an in-depth look at offshore hosting.

Email and Cloud Drives

The last thing any of us wants is having our email or storage drives shut down because of censorship, which is why switching to encrypted, anonymous email and cloud storage providers is a good idea.

ProtonMail seems to be the number one choice among sex workers, especially since they wrote a blog post welcoming all sex workers to use their platform following SESTA. They have free and paid versions of their email, and also offer a free VPN service. Other nice features with ProtonMail are that you can set email messages to expire, which is handy if you’re sending out incall or other sensitive information; the email will be removed after a specified time.

For cloud storage, I use Tresorit. Tresorit has what’s called a “zero-knowledge authentication” policy, meaning they do not store or transmit any files or passwords in unencrypted form. Your files are end-to-end encrypted, meaning Tresorit does not have access to the contents of your files (unlike Google). It also means that if you lose your password, they’re unable to recover it, and they’re unable to hand over your data without your full consent. Data is stored in Europe and they’re protected by Swiss privacy laws.

You can install Tresorit on your mobile or desktop device and use it like any other cloud drive. They offer a free trial period and flexible pricing solutions for most budgets.

TL;DR

  • If you’re a sex worker (or client of sex workers) you should be concerned about your data privacy.
  • Use Tor and a VPN when browsing the internet.
  • Learn about cryptocurrency and get yourself started on an exchange. Use it when paying for ads or any other online sex-work related products and services.
  • If you have a website, move it to offshore hosting and ensure your identity remains anonymous.
  • Use encrypted email and file storage systems to keep your information safe.

Connect with me online!

Toronto-based sex worker, entrepreneur, law student and all-round sassy babe. Follow me on twitter at @lafemmeisobel or visit my site at www.isobelandrews.com