Tuesday, September 02, 2014

the illusion of privacy and the reality of theft

All of the recent buzz about the latest phone hacking scandal has got me thinking about the internet and privacy. It seems to be common knowledge that anything posted online, or on a device that has online access, might be fair game for a hacker, yet we seem to be constantly surprised when something like this happens. And it keeps happening more and more often.

I think everyone has been looking at this situation the wrong way. Many people are sharing their unasked-for opinions that if the hacked celebrities involved didn't want their nude selfies shared with the world they never should have taken them to begin with. Thank you, Captain Obvious, but apart from that being textbook victim-shaming and blaming, it misses the point. The victims involved had items that belonged to them stolen. This argument is about as nonsensical as saying if you didn't want your car stolen, you never should have had one to begin with. Hacking is a crime, pure and simple.

There are countless know-it-all articles popping up on how to super-encrypt your email and Facebook so that this sort of thing couldn't happen to you. But after trying to double-authenticate my email I couldn't get in the next day via my phone, no matter how many times I tried the new code. How many people are going to go through all those extra steps to just check email (numerous times a day) on their phones, iPads, laptops, etc.?

Six years ago, after I had my daughter, I knew I wanted to have an expressive outlet, and toyed with starting a blog. But I was concerned about the privacy issue. A colleague who worked in the IT department told me that if anyone really wanted to get information about me, they could, blog or no blog. I decided to go for it, and I don't regret having an online presence, but I also don't kid myself that I can preserve any true sense of anonymity.

Regarding the morality of this particular situation, I can't help but feel for Jennifer Lawrence and all of the other celebrities. Not only are they going through the embarrassment of having intimate photos stolen and then shared, against their will, with the world, but they have been subject to the false morality and criticism of the same people who are eagerly viewing said photos while clutching their strands of pearls. There is nothing wrong with someone taking a nude photo of themselves, for themselves, or with the intention of sharing with a loved one. But having a bunch of them stolen and then posted on the web is another matter.

It's interesting to note that in the same week a member of a teen boy band, Calum Hood, of Five Seconds of Summer, had his own mini-scandal when he posted a video of his privates to a female fan on Snapchat, who then promptly uploaded it for the world to see. There is a big difference here, as he at least chose at first to share (if not overshare) his nude body, but the results are the same. Someone thought they were sharing an intimate photo with one person, and soon the whole world was the audience.

I have no doubt that Lawrence and others will weather this storm just fine. But it does call into question the morality of the internet and the hacker(s). This is not a Julian Assange sort of hacking. If one wants to peruse naked boobs and butts on the internet there are many, many sites that cater to those desires. But to grab photos of a famous person, against their will — there can be no other reason to do this except as a trophy or humiliation.


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