How private is your information?
In the digital age hiring a sex worker is a lot more complicated than just picking up a phone and calling a hotline. Now many of us manage our own businesses and that includes all the data that goes along with it. What happens with your session request forms, email correspondence and session records? Many clients are concerned about privacy and discretion for many different reasons. But how do you know your private information is well taken care of by you and your provider?
Consider using encrypted email services. I personally use Proton mail but there are many other options. At it's core, encrypted email describes a process where email messages are encoded so they can’t be read by people who aren’t part of the conversation. Despite the seemingly simplistic process of sending and receiving an email there are actually many weak points to many email providers. Not all encryption is equal, while Gmail does encrypt emails it does not allow for end to end encryption so Google has access and can intercept any incoming and outgoing messages. Services like Proton mail offers end to end encryption meaning no one can access your messages except you and your intended recipient, not even the people who work at ProtonMail. I have encountered several times where clients use their work emails for communication, this is absolutely the easiest way to have messages intercepted as there are many people in the middle who have access to your accounts.
Use encrypted session request forms. Many providers use sites like Wix, Squarespace or Wordpress for their websites, they also tend to use the built in contact forms for their session requests. While convenient these forms can be read not only by the company that hosts your site as well as all the people and servers in between that form going from the host to the provider's email. These contact form messages are also stored by the host of the website AND the host of the email address the information is forwarded to. Using contact forms such as Cognito forms, which is what I use, is a much safer way to obtain and store information. Cognito forms are encrypted and create another hoop for someone to jump through when trying to access your information. Cognito forms do not send an exact copy of your request to my email. Pay attention to what type of form you are filling out when you are sending in your session request form, this is often the weakest point of security.
Clouds are not private unless they are personally owned. Cloud storage is something the every day person is becoming more and more familiar with, but how safe is it? Many people use cloud without even knowing it! Cloud storage is often operated by a third party which ultimately has control over the data stored there, while it is primarily a safe place to store things there are risks of data breeches, server crashes, and information being accidently shared since the servers are not 1:1. So how do I store all of my client files? I have a local dedicated server that I administer myself which gives me as much control as possible over my files. The server, located in my office, can only be accessed locally.
VPNs are your friend. A VPN is a Virtual Private Network that facilitates a secure connection to another network over the internet. This can shield your browsing activity from prying eyes if you are on public wifi or an unsecured connection. VPNs can also withhold your true location and giving more anonymity while online. I personally use Proton VPN but there are many personal VPN services out there.
Why don't more providers and clients practice their own data security measures? In order for an interaction to be secure all parties involved must consider what happens to the information involved. There is no point in a provider working hard to equip themselves when their clients are emailing from public wifi or unsecure methods. Another primary reason there are weak points in security for many is the lack of knowledge. For the average person none of these precautions are really necessary or even thought about, however sex workers and clients alike tend to value their privacy to a higher degree. Although many clients are worried about privacy very few ask how their data is handled so it is typically out of sight out of mind. Not only does the lack of knowledge interfere but so does the cost. Encrypted email, session forms and VPN's are not exactly free. For example Cognito forms charges $25 a month for encryption.
While all of these methods can be used to protect your private information, many of these privacy protections are at risk under the Earn it Act. The bill has the potential to be damaging to free speech and directly harmful to anyone who uses encryption-based communication services. Learn more about the Earn it Act here..