THE BLOG
06/13/2013 12:12 pm ET Updated Aug 13, 2013

Didn't Ask? Don't Share

If you are under 30, have an online dating presence, and have ever opened the messages you receive online, you've probably encountered a d*ck pic before.

It's the infamous picture that resides in the deepest, darkest parts of a man's phone, waiting to be released to sometimes unexpected recipients at all hours of the day. Some are nice, some are bad, and some should have never been taken. Usually when I receive one I am not too offended, especially if I have asked for a picture. But other times I am a little taken aback and find myself thinking: Why did I just receive this?

Recently, another online dating user found herself asking the same question and reacted in a way that has many people around the internet LOLing.

Tumblr user aheartbeatchanged was chatting with a guy on the dating app Let's Date about the weather when all of the sudden he must have begun feeling the heat. Seemingly out of nowhere he sent her a picture of him naked, penis in full view. Aheartbeachanged decided to take matters into her own hands, and found his mother on Facebook and...you guessed it: contacted her. We still don't know if she actually sent him the nude picture but according to her blog (which is currently down) she did indeed send the mother a message. No response has been reported.

This incident has forced people to take sides. Some are shaming the woman for contacting the mom, because, duh, you obviously should totally be OK with being sent naked pictures of men you may be considering dating. While others, including me, are laughing and applauding the ingenuity of this woman, and kicking ourselves for not thinking of it before. I mean, I don't know if I'd actually do it, but I at least toy with the guy who sent me the picture for a minute.

I know, I know, that's some sick humor, but whatever.

However, aheartbeatchanged's actions do bring us to some interesting questions around picture sharing and being naked on our phones. Questions like: Is this against the law? When we send a picture do we still own it? And, will any d*ck pic ever be safe again?!

With regard to the law with online picture sharing, it really depends on the state.

It could be argued that by sending an unwarranted photo, especially one that is lewd, can fall under cyber-stalking or cyber-harassment, depending on the circumstances. But it's not that easy -- cyber-stalking and cyber-harassment laws change depending on where you are. Some states have laws that could have you facing some legal problems in the near future the recipients decide to file. (You should hit up the National Conference of State Legislatures for that info if you're worried/curious.)

Over the past few years, 'sexting' -- or sex texting -- has come to the forefront of many parents' minds in America, causing quite the outrage in many areas. This incident technically falls under 'sexting' but it's just really one-sided, thus it's pretty much a form of harassment. The laws around sexting adults get a little gray with adults as mentioned above, but with young people it's a whole other story.

First, you may be wondering just how many young people are actually engaging in sexting. Well according to research published in the July 2012 issue of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 57 percent of teens had been asked to send a sext, with 28 percent of the students actually going through with it and sending a naked picture of themselves through text or email.

Though these are mostly consensual interactions, unlike in the case of our friend aheartbeatchanged, the law comes down hard depending on the state in which this happens when it pertains to teens. In Ohio, for instance, it can be charged as a felony in the second degree. And in other states, teens found guilty of sexting may have to register as sex offenders.

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So, what about ownership? Do you even own that nude picture of your Johnson or is that actually someone else's now? Well that also depends on where you are posting, much like the laws mentioned above.

For instance, Twitter users retain rights to any content they produce. However, by using Twitter, users give the site full-access, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to "use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute" any content, while also allowing your content to be used by "other companies, organizations and individuals who partner with Twitter," according to The Guardian. And the same is pretty true for Flicker/others as well.

But what about dating websites? Do they own your pictures? Well according to privacy policies at sites like OkCupid, anything you post is theirs... forever.

OkCupid is known for producing fun reports on dating online, and use their users to mine this data. So it's no surprise that every little click you make and quote you put in your 'About Me' is analyzed and saved on their database.

By the way, Match.com now owns OkCupid.com. Just let that settle in and think about how many people have access to your deep, dark secrets on your account.

In the end, what we as Internet users must always remember is that the Internet is like a phone, but on speaker. Sure you may be talking to one person directly, but everyone can hear you... and worse, everyone can save what you are doing. The websites we visit, the social media we engage with are all places that could potentially save and use anything we create, forever.

And beyond the sites themselves, when we send pictures, messages or videos to other people, we must remember that the recipient now has that information on their device and can do with it what they please. Even with Snapchat, which has grown rapidly and grown to be highly used, your information isn't that safe.

Sure the app will delete whatever is sent, and sure it will tell you if someone saved the item sent, but that won't really stop someone from showing another person or saving it forever. What I find funny about Snapchat is that people continually use the argument of: Well if they screenshot it I will know! And I always respond: Oh great, you will not at least know who showed the whole world you nude, instead of having to guess. Kudos.

We no longer only live in the information age, we now we also live in the overshare age. Between what we write and what we capture with our phones, we are documenting everything and allowing the entire world in, which is a huge privilege to be able to do this. And with that privilege comes does come great responsibility, and most frighteningly, with this new moment in history, our mom's may starting getting more than an email of our latest vacation, which is just embarrassing.

As for aheartbeatchanged, all I have to say is: you go girl! And for 'Trevor' who sent the picture: I bet you will think twice the next time you are discussing the weather with someone and you have a desire to show what happens when your temperature rises.