In a world where information is more and more open every day and it is alarmingly easy to obtain information on individuals, how should we protect ourselves from nosy hackers whose sole purpose of existence is to profit from human curiosity and perversion?
Last week, private pictures of over 100 celebrities, mostly females and with many containing nudity, were posted to an image board website known as 4chan. The event has been dubbed 'The Fappening'. The intimate photos were then rapidly circulated around the web through social and photo sharing websites, including Reddit, Imgur and Tumblr. It is believed that these pictures were acquired through an exploit of iCloud, a cloud storage system offered by Apple Inc.
The man who claimed responsibility for this, calls himself 'OriginalGuy', thanked his "supporters” and posted that he is changing his location. It appears that he was in charge of group of hackers who have been working for months to obtain these photos. Meanwhile, celebrities and their publicists scrambled to handle the situation. Some, including Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna, Kate Upton and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, have confirmed that these photos are authentic, while others, such as Ariana Grande, have claimed them to be photo-shopped. Unaffected personalities, including Emma Watson, have tweeted their sympathy and support.
Everyone's trying to protect their public image. There's a need to justify, a need to explain why such photos exist. But there shouldn't be, right? What people do in their own time shouldn't be anyone else's business. Except it is; because image is everything. Even more so in the case of celebrities.
Who you are on the internet is what people perceive you to be. This does not just apply to celebrities but to ordinary people as well. You can find out practically anything about a person on the internet. Facebook, Instagram, Ask.fm, Twitter are all filled with information about ourselves. Information, in whatever form, can always be used to harm. And anything that is up on the internet is going to be there, for the lack of a better word, forever. The public Facebook fights, the cheesy pictures and essay-esque captions with temporary boyfriends/girlfriends, the less-than-flattering pictures are all examples of our carelessness and the overall deterioration of the concept of privacy. We broadcast ourselves, but are we broadcasting an image that we're proud of? Are we aware of the consequences of the information we put up? In today's world, constant vigilance is necessary.
In regard to the scandalous leak, perverts are always going to exist. Yes, this was a "a flagrant violation of privacy”, as said by Jenifer Lawrence's spokeswoman. Yes, this is crime and the people responsible for it should be severely punished. Yes, Apple Inc (and all cloud storage sites) should take immediate measures to enhance their security. But these pictures are already out there and they're never going to stop existing; neither is any information on the internet.
This is definitely not the way it should be, but it's the way it is; and instead of wishing for things to be different, each of us need to be careful about how to manage our information and our digital footprint. Because every time we upload something to the internet, even if it to a 'private' album with specific restrictions or to a server we believe to be secure, there is a chance someone will come up with the technology or means to gain access to it. You're thinking, “I'm not famous. No hacker is going to be interested in me!” But you don't know that. Your life is yet to unfold. What if you are famous in the years to come? Even if you do not become a celebrity, are you really so sure you that there is no chance for you to be scorned by someone somewhere who will employ hackers against you just to humiliate you? We have to be careful of what we immortalize.