Stickers providing information about a recently released application, Nude, have become a common sight at Stanford.
The app, created by former Berkeley students Y.C. Chen and Jessica Chiu, has been heavily marketed on the Stanford campus via stickers placed on buildings and bulletin boards.
Chen and Chiu say they founded Nude to provide a private storage space to keep users’ most intimate photos safe. When the user downloads the app, Nude uses a locally-deployed machine learning model to go through photos in the device’s camera roll and identify pictures with nude bodies.
Stanford students The Daily spoke to had a mixed response to the app and its aim.
“That’s weird,” said Susana Martinez ’18, who has never sent or received nudes. “The concept of machine learning makes it feel like the computer is storing some sort of memory of it; it has algorithms to track what a nude body looks like. The act of storing, and learning how to identify that, feels like it could be used for worse things.”
Another student, Benjamin Demonbreun ’18, also expressed skeptical views on the machine learning feature.
“That sounds dumb,” Demonbreun said. “I feel like the person who’s hiding the nudes would just do that. They wouldn’t put it in an open folder first.”
According to Chen, the auto-detection process can be turned off so that the user can manually import photos. The app can also be used to store important documents and information.
Nude was created in response to the series of celebrity nude photo scandals that Chiu heard about from friends in Hollywood. Martinez acknowledged that she had also heard of such scandals.
“In the last couple years, I don’t know how many times I’ve been alerted about a nude scandal,” Martinez said. “People want to feel secure with their own phones and I don’t believe anyone should be disrespecting their privacy in that form.”
Chen says that the problem with other photo vaults comes from storing photos in the cloud. Chen and Chiu have tried to overcome the issues this creates.
“Everything is locally stored,” Chen said. “The only way that someone could get access to your photos is to physically get your phone, hack into Apple and then hack into our app.”
Despite such safeguards, students are skeptical.
“I don’t think I’d trust it in general,” Martinez said.“I’m not the type of person to send nude photos or want to receive them. So I personally have no reason to want to safely store them.”
Demonbreun, however, does not feel as strongly about his own privacy regarding nude photos.
“I can see how that would be useful if you have someone else’s [nudes] and want to preserve their privacy,” he said. “But I already have an app for that and it works pretty well. It’s called Audio Manager.”
Audio Manager, unlike Nude, uses cloud storage. The app’s real name is Hide It Pro, though it is disguised as an audio settings tool. Demonbreun is happy with its performance.
After some research, the app’s team marketed Nude towards women of Martinez’ age, 18 to 25. But they have spent almost no money on marketing, with most of their advertising happening through word of mouth at Stanford and Berkeley.
Students’ experience with nudity varies across campus, depending on their housing and their social groups. Demonbreun, for example, finds it to be a common occurrence.
“Nudity does not make me uncomfortable,” Demonbreun said. “I saw a naked person in Synergy one time in the computer cluster while I was working on a project. I saw a horde of naked people at Full Moon on the Quad freshman year. Sometimes people have bets and the loser has to run around naked. And I’ve seen people naked in… different contexts.”
Whether students share Demonbreun’s openness about nudity or Martinez’ skepticism about the app, neither of them plan on using Nude. Demonbreun, however, left The Daily with one thought about the “Nude” stickers around campus, which he originally thought were part of a social activism campaign.
“It made me think about why Sigma Nu hasn’t had a party called Sigma Nude,” Demonbreun said.
Contact Elias Mooring on eliasm ‘at’ stanford.edu.