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Bulli Bai app controversy shows how unsafe Indian women are on the internet

There’s a constant fear that our personal photographs can be picked by a cybercriminal anytime and used in incidents like Bulli Bai or Sulli Deals. Hundreds and thousands of photos of women being listed on the online platform show that any one of us could be next in the line.

Updated:Wed, January 05, 2022 12:29pm

By Sneha Saha

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While the Bulli Bai app controversy primarily revolves around Indian Muslim women, it surely gives us an implication of how unsafe Indian women, in general, are on the internet.

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With the constant rise in such incidents in the country, it is getting difficult for us women to even share personal photos on our social media accounts such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, and even LinkedIn.

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There's a constant fear that our personal photographs can be morphed or used on adult sites or picked by a cybercriminal and used on apps like Bulli Bai. Hundreds and thousands of photos of women being listed on the Bulli Bai show that any one of us could be next in the line.

In the recent Bulli Bai app controversy, cybercriminals, from across various parts of India, identified prominent women (in this case, Muslim women) from various professions such as influencers, media, and so on and used their photos to auction them on the online platform.

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These photos were collected without the notice of the women, of course. The process goes like this, these cybercriminals first stalk these women on their social media platforms and then pick their photographs without permission.

The idea behind the Bulli Bai app was to put these women on auction for financial gains in return. Fortunately, no such real auction incidents have been reported so far.

A similar incident occurred last year called Sulli Deal. Even then, photos of prominent Muslim women were picked from the internet and listed for sale.

Unfortunately, Cyber security experts believe that there's no way to fix such incidents.

Speaking to BGR.in, Satyajit Sinha, Senior Analyst at IoT Analytics, highlights that objectifying women in the cyber world has been going on for a while now. "I remember when Tinder was launched, cybercriminals used to steal photos of women from Facebook to create fake accounts trick users for money," Sinha recalls.

There's no denying that if you are on the internet once, you remain there forever. So, how do you control your details or photos from being misused?

Sinha says that the only way one can ensure to not fall for such incidents is by keeping their account private and adding only known as a friend or follower. This again isn't possible all the time, right?

It looks like social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, among others are aware of how unsafe their platforms can be for women. All these platforms of late introduced tools to lock accounts, make profiles private, and so on.

Sinha says, even though social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and others offer options to keep profiles private, most users do not utilise such tools. He thinks, if one is concerned about his/her data being leaked, they should either lock their profile or add only people they trust.

Sinha also highlights that "in most instances, these cybercriminals look for data that are easily available on the internet. So, users must ensure to keep their profile private and add people or followers they know personally."

The only way, such incidents can be reduced is by bringing in a strict check process. Sinha thinks that "the government should place some check process for these apps, which should include a process to check if the app is genuine or not."

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