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B.C. woman gets $5,000 after intimate images secretly transferred via iCloud

A woman uses a smartphone in an image from shutterstock.com A woman uses a smartphone in an image from shutterstock.com
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A B.C. woman will receive $5,000 after intimate images stored on her phone were distributed without her knowledge or consent, the province's small claims tribunal has determined.

According to a Civil Resolution Tribunal decision shared online this week, pictures of the applicant – whose identity is protected by a publication ban – were shared by Byron Sowinski, a man she hadn't previously met.

Tribunal member Andrea Ritchie wrote in her decision the applicant had various sexual images of herself – taken in her bedroom between 2019 and 2023 for personal purposes – stored on her phone.

The applicant was hanging out with Sowinski and a mutual friend in February when Sowinski asked to use her phone to connect it to the TV and play music.

"While doing so, the respondent secretly accessed the applicant's iCloud account and sent themself several images of the applicant nude, or nearly nude, and engaged in sexual acts," Ritchie wrote. "The respondent also sent one photo to an incorrect phone number while trying to send it to themself."

The applicant later noticed the images were sent to two unknown numbers and, after calling the most-used number, reached out to Sowinski. He apologized for distributing the photos without the applicant's consent and offered to send their own intimate pictures to the applicant.

"The respondent also said the applicant should take it as a 'compliment' that they wanted the images, and that the images they sent to themself could be used later in the respondent's 'spank bank,'" Ritchie wrote.

Two days later, Sowinski reached out to the applicant again by text message and said "if they heard anything else about the respondent 'stealing' the applicant's pictures, they would 'post (her) pictures all over social media.'"

Ritchie said Sowinski chose not to participate in the dispute and, as they didn't give a defence, determined the applicant was entitled to damages.

Ritchie wrote the applicant felt her privacy was violated and said she suffered from sadness and depression following the incident.

While the woman's identity was protected with a publication ban, she told the tribunal she didn't believe releasing the respondent's name would identify her.

"I find the respondent flagrantly ignored the applicant's right to personal privacy and autonomy in sharing her intimate images," Ritchie wrote. "I further find their behaviour after the applicant discovered the sharing was egregious, both in their offers for reciprocal intimate images and their explanation for their use of the photos. Finally, I find the respondent's behaviour in threatening to share the images further reprehensible."

CRT has a small claims limit of $5,000, which is what the applicant was awarded.

"I find the applicant is entitled to at least that amount, but I am bound by the limit," Ritchie's decision said. "If not for the limit, I also would have found that the applicant is entitled to punitive damages to punish the respondent for their reprehensible and disgusting conduct, and to express society's disapproval of their actions." 

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