A Vice Germany investigation found Skirt Club, a sex club for bisexual women, kept photos of its members easily accessible online. The club has more than 5,000 members worldwide, and many of those members are not openly bisexual.
For example, Vice presented the case of a 39-year-old woman who had been married for 15 years. "No one knows that I am bi in my environment," she said. "Not my kids, my friends or clients."
The online platform hailed itself as "a safe place where women can play with each other.” For a woman to become a member, she has to fill out an online application and send in a full-body photo, then have her application reviewed by a Skirt Club committee. The site is intentionally male-avoidant; the website states members can meet and have Skirt Club sex parties "away from the prying eyes of men.”
Vice Germany launched its investigation after several anonymous sources tipped them off to security issues with the site, which went offline at about 1 p.m. EST Friday. The sources likely contacted Vice because it published a feature on Skirt Club in Oct. 2016.
After they were tipped off, Vice’s editors found thousands of personal images could be viewed and downloaded fairly easily by “anyone curious enough to make a bit of an effort.”
According to Vice, the women were often recognizable, and some of the photos included the users’ names. Vice says it alerted Skirt to the issue in December, and it took more than three weeks to remove the photos and data, and Skirt did not inform users of the issue.
So, how did it happen? Vice reports a WordPress plugin that regulates access rights to images was installed incorrectly.
"On a scale from 1-10 in regards to negligence, this is an 11," Stephan Urbach, a tech expert and online privacy activist, told Vice.
Skirt Club says it is replacing its website, and in a few weeks the new site will launch with increased security measures. The founder, writing under pseudonym Genevieve LeJeune, questioned Vice’s intentions for publishing a story.
"[W]hat exactly will you achieve?” LeJeune wrote in an email. “I am forced to question your true motive, and whether this is an attack on a minority group? Or even women in general?"
We’re hoping any damage caused by the security shortcomings proves to be minimal.