Watch CBS News

Lawmakers Want 'Cyber Flashing' Outlawed, Call For Jail Time For Anyone Doing It

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Imagine a lewd image popping up on your phone from a complete stranger.

It's called "Cyber Flashing."

More New Yorkers say it's happening to them.

Now two councilmen want jail time for anyone caught doing it.

Inwood resident Katherine Hannauer was taking the subway home when a picture of a man's genitalia suddenly appeared on her phone.

"I keep forgetting to turn off Air Drop," Hannauer told CBS2's Lisa Rozner. "And then I got something that was a little more offensive than usual."

IPhone users can receive photos from strangers if their Air Drop feature is turned on and set to receive images from everyone.

"I just was thinking about maybe how this would affect a younger person," Hannauer said.

It's hard to prosecute. Republican Councilman Joe Borelli says harassment charges can't be brought for electronic communication unless there's a threat of physical harm. That's why he's authored legislation, introduced this week, to make cyber flashing a misdemeanor. Democrat Councilman Donovan Richards co-sponsored the measure.

"Keep your pics in your pants is the message we're sending," Richards said.

Or else?

"A $1,000 fine or up to a year in jail," Richards said.

Another challenge is finding the perpetrators.

The NYPD didn't get into tactics, but said it takes harassment seriously and will work with the council on addressing the issue.

"The iPhone has this option. They should figure out ways to put safeguards in place," Richards said.

Cyber security experts say there are several.

"Apple, when they release the phones, (should) have the default of Air Drop disabled," said Guy Franklin, General Manager of SOSA NYC, the tech firm establishing a new global Cyber Center in Manhattan. "One feature can be that you will not see a preview of the picture."

Here's how to restrict Air Drop on your iPhone:

  1. Go to SETTINGS
  2. Select GENERAL
  3. Select AIR DROP
  5. Make sure EVERYONE is NOT CHECKED

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.