by Wendy Widom
CHICAGO (CBS) – “It’s very hard to leak a naked picture that hasn’t been taken,” wrote Michael Messinger of Chicago on Facebook.
“She has every right to take naked selfies if she chooses. That these were stolen from her personal cloud and shared with the world is in no way her fault, and should be treated as the appalling crime that it is,” replied Katharine Vary of Baltimore, Md.
Other commenters chimed in with their own opinions about whether Jennifer Lawrence should have taken nude photos with her phone, which was recently hacked. “Don’t put anything on film you wouldn’t want on the front page of a newspaper,” stated another Chicagoan. “Don’t they realize that it is the same as watching a woman bathe through her window??” asked Adeshola Sholashade Ezeokoli.
Whether you’re male or female, gay or straight, you likely took a moment to pause yesterday when you heard that Jennifer Lawrence’s nude personal photos had been stolen and published online. You probably asked yourself a seemingly innocent question. Do I look?
In this celebrity-soaked era, when our curiosity about the famous collides with our sheepish understanding that everyone deserves a little privacy, it’s tempting to look. Why not? Many of the actresses bare it all in movies anyway. After the hacking scandal in England, when even Prince William’s texts made their way into the public eye, celebrities should know that any message they write and any photo they snap could be leaked. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.
Making it more confusing are the celebrities whose rise to fame can be directly correlated to how they feed the public’s insatiable appetite for photos and gossip. Where would Kim Kardashian be without her almost X-rated photos or her sex tape? Even Beyoncé, once protective and secretive about her personal life, has used social platforms to share intimate photos of marriage and motherhood. The line between private and public, once blurred, has all but disappeared.
Except that it hasn’t. Hacking into someone’s personal photos and sharing them is not only a violation, it’s a crime. Think of it this way: let’s say you have a box in your home. This container, protected by a password known only to you, contains your passport, social security card and some nude photos.
If I break into your home and abscond with these documents and photos, I am committing a crime. If I make copies and disseminate the documents and photos to anyone else, I am abetting a crime. In this instance, Jennifer Lawrence’s home is no different than her phone. The photos, saved on iCloud* and accessed through a security gap now patched by Apple, were private. They were never meant for public consumption.
But what about us, the random internet surfers who might click on a link, just like we did with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Who didn’t find Ben Affleck throwing Jennifer Garner into a pool, with the kids giggling in background, absolutely adorable? Who didn’t sigh when Matt Damon poured toilet water on his head to bring attention to the 80 million people on this planet who do not have access to clean water? The public can’t get enough of famous people, especially in their more candid moments.
Despite the temptation, the reasons we shouldn’t click, the reasons we can’t click, are simple and straightforward. We are creating demand. Websites track their traffic. If site owners and editors notice that stolen, nude celebrity photos are getting a lot of clicks and attention, they will want more. They, along with hackers and paparazzi, will do whatever they can to obtain more.
We can’t click because, whether it’s legal or not, we are participating in a crime. If you buy a bicycle from a local store and learn through looking up the serial number that the bike was stolen, you have a moral obligation to return it to its rightful owner. Jennifer Lawrence’s photos are no different than that bike.
Finally, we need to refrain from clicking on her photos because otherwise we are reinforcing the notion that when women are exploited and objectified, its their own fault. When a high school sophomore drinks too much, she does not deserve to be raped. When a woman declines a man’s sexual advances, she does not deserve to be shot or have her name and photo submitted to a revenge porn site, seriously damaging both her professional and personal reputation.
Similarly, when a woman takes a nude photo of herself on her phone, she does not deserve to have that photo shared with the world, no matter what other celebrities are doing and no matter what we think about her decision to snap a photo in the first place. Don’t click on those nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence, no matter how innocent or tempting it may seem. I promise, you’ll survive.
*Update: Apple has released a media advisory about the theft of celebrity photos, stating the breach was not caused by an iCloud-related flaw:
Update to Celebrity Photo Investigation
We wanted to provide an update to our investigation into the theft of photos of certain celebrities. When we learned of the theft, we were outraged and immediately mobilized Apple’s engineers to discover the source. Our customers’ privacy and security are of utmost importance to us. After more than 40 hours of investigation, we have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet. None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud® or Find my iPhone. We are continuing to work with law enforcement to help identify the criminals involved.
To protect against this type of attack, we advise all users to always use a strong password and enable two-step verification. Both of these are addressed on our website at http://support.apple.com/kb/ht4232.