Stockholm-based tech consultant Per Axbom launched "Dick Pic Locator" last week and has already seen the site used more than 5,000 times. The service reads data contained in unsolicited "dick pic" images uploaded by the recipient in order to discover where the photo was taken.
"I combined my understanding of women being subjected to dick pics on a daily basis with my knowledge of what data is contained within many images today. The Dick Pic Locator is really just a service that has been waiting to happen. Long overdue, I would add," Axbom tells The Local.
A screenshot of the website. Photo: Per Axbom
The phenomenon of unsolicited graphic images being sent to people is not limited to Sweden, but Axbom said that the response of one Swedish woman in particular to the online abuse helped inspire his creation:
"There are women in Sweden who are especially equipped and capable when it comes to speaking up about harassment they encounter online. This is in part due to a strong feminist movement but also the competence Swedish women bring to the table when it comes to tech savviness. My inspiration comes from one such woman, Linnéa Claeson, who was recently awarded the human rights prize of the Swedish United Nations Association for her work in combating online threats and violations."
Claeson, a professional handball player by trade, has more recently become known for her Instagram account Assholes Online, on which she posts screenshots of the abusive messages she receives on a daily basis including graphic images and verbal sexual abuse.
"Dick pics, rape movies and sexual abuse threats, death threats and similar. Also a lot of victim blaming and slutshaming," Claeson explained to The Local earlier this year about the kind of messages she receives.
Axbom by contrast has received little negative reaction to his website, something he thinks is likely to do with his gender.
"I did worry before launching what types of people may react in a hateful manner and what verbal spew I may have to endure. Then I realized my fear was embarrassingly cowardly given what I know about what women cope with that is easily ten times worse and constantly gnawing away at their self-esteem. I can easily imagine that if a young woman had built this service she would be wading through a flood of hateful comments on social media and in her inbox."
Per Axbom. Photo: Axbom Innovation
The entrepreneur openly admits there are ways his website could be misused, and that he ultimately cannot control what is done with the location information given to the person who uploads the picture.
"While I move some of the power balance to the recipient, I do hand over ownership of the consequences to them as well. In my head I probably imaged that many of the perpetrators would be known to the recipient and they would handle it with a phone call. The information is probably a great addition to a police report, but I have no way of knowing how it will be used," he concedes.
The same information can be accessed without using the site however, he points out:
"You could just do it on your phone. Once you have access to a copy of an original photo in your library you can choose to view the info about the photo, placing it neatly on a map. This has been the case for a long time".
Axbom insists that he deletes the photos as soon as they have been uploaded, and does not use traffic analysis services in order to avoid tracking the people visiting the site. He hopes the service can also make people more aware about the information stored in their images, and how it is being used:
"My greater concern is that hardware and software developers are not making it utterly clear to people that this data is being used, it is being tracked and being uploaded to private companies when they use their service to share your photo."
"Maybe, just maybe, this can also make men think twice before sending unsolicited photos of their privates."