Nude leaks expose need for caution


Over this past week, browsing any online media outlet has without being assaulted by frivolous celebrity gossip has proven an insurmountable task. The subject of the latest controversy: leaked nude photos of popular celebrities such as actress Jennifer Lawrence and Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney. 

While many stars with leaked nudes are met with an overwhelmingly negative public backlash, this latest mass-leak has produced a wave of responses condemning the person or people who violated the privacy of others. 

Throwing your gum wrapper on the sidewalk doesn’t degrade the environment by itself, everyone’s collective decision to litter does. The same concept applies to taking a peak at J.Law’s selfie. We won’t equate this situation to “cyber rape” as author Charlotte Laws does, but any sort of participation in this exploitative crime smears salt into the wound. Think about it: People Magazine and others of that ilk wouldn’t pay paparazzi thousands of dollars for photos without our culture’s voyeuristic fascination with celebrities. Likewise, the hacker wouldn’t be incentivized to violate the privacy of these women if he or she wasn’t rewarded in shares and upvotes. It’s simple microeconomics: supply and demand. And although we doubt our culture will ever reach a point where moral principles guide every decision, it’s important to note that /r/TheFappening mods aren’t alone in deserving the finger of blame. 

The finger, however, shouldn’t be pointed at Kate Upton or Kirsten Dunst. As New York Times reporter Farhad Manjoo Tweeted, “I’ve never heard anyone respond to financial hacking by saying, ‘Just don’t use online banking. That’s what you get for using credit cards.’” Issues involving double D’s, not Discover cards, tend to twist people’s panties in a bunch. Of course, celebrities must be wary of the ever-present public eye and understand that careless actions can yield devastating consequences. Yet, the act of pointing a lens toward a bare chest is intrinsically private, and no one has room to judge another person’s intimacies. Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead noted that her leaked photos were taken with her husband years ago, and can “only image the creepy effort that went into this.” 

The discussion should not revolve around preventative measures, rather, we must focus on the creepiness factor — the questions that arise regarding privacy and security. For better or for worse, the cloud is omnipresent and hoards more photos and videos than we’d like to believe. Unbeknownst to many, most cellphones store user data on cloud by default, and deleting a photo from a phone doesn’t necessarily delete it from a cloud. Especially in light of last year’s NSA scandal, the lack of public education about the cloud’s capabilities is concerning. We wonder: Who is watching? What are they looking at? Feeling the constant gaze of this anonymous eye may also have societal implications, creating an uncomfortable hyperawareness surrounding every decision made.

Though exposing someone’s most private information is as unethical as it is criminal, the many instances of people becoming victims of data theft or leakage demonstrates an urgent need to recognize how vulnerable a person is when connected to the Internet. As technology continues to increase its presence in our everyday lives, it is important for everyone to take the necessary procedures to protect their information. Not to say that anyone should feel restricted to do as they please in their private lives — but privacy is essentially dead in the 21st century, and though this fact is an outrage in itself, that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed purely because it’s unethical. In an age where who you were at 18 can define your entire adulthood, young people must learn to be “smart” about where they put their photos and messages.

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