Celebrity Picture Leak Labor Day Weekend 2014. A torrent of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, other celebrity images and videos were recently leaked. The ‘Age of No Privacy’ is alive and thriving. Time and time age celebrities store risque, nude, and NSFW material on their cell phones, in the cloud (in this case, possibly Apple’s iCloud online storage) and their accounts get hacked, someone close to them distributes them, or when erasing them, forgot about the cached version of that data (if stored digitally somewhere) still on the server.
For whatever reason, around 4 pm yesterday (August 31, 2014) on 4chan (a image-based bulletin board) a user (in the site’s “/b/” section) who claimed to have gained access to a gaggle of never-before-seen-or-released celebrity pictures began posting them to the bulletin board (the entire thread has been erased and there is now a 404 error message where the thread was). After that initial leak, those images started showing up on social networks, torrent sites, and image hosting and sharing sites.
The Leaked Celebrities in Photos
I did not become aware of leak until the following day via Twitter (because of all the activity surrounding Jennifer Lawrence on the social network). Once I clicked her name I saw what all the hubbub was about. I thought something involving The Hunger Game: Mockingjay – Part 1 had occurred that had somehow escaped my attention.
Not so. It was something far more nefarious. I was thunderstruck. At first I thought one or two of the photos were Photoshopped, you know, that a head from A was placed on body B. This was not the case. The images were too…real.
— Neetzan Zimmerman (@neetzan) August 31, 2014
A quick search and I found out this invasion of private property and illegal distribution had not just happened to Jennifer Lawrence but to many other celebrities as well:
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Jessica Brown Findlay
Some of this hacked material even included videos of the celebrities.
This hacking and distribution of celebrity images and videos is already being called ‘History’s Biggest Celebrity Hacking Scandal’ by one news outlet, while some social networks and forums are deleteriously referring to it as ‘The Fappening.’
Personal Responisbilitiy for The Leaked Materials
Whatever name you want to attribute to this situation, it brings one starling fact to the forefront of our collective consciousnesses: no one is safe in the digital world.
Celebrities, of all people, should know this. There are genius-level hackers with nothing else to do with their time than to delve into the online world and crash gates wherever they meet them. That includes cell phone and online storage accounts.
Celebrities are people just like accountants and stock brokers and deserve their privacy but they are celebrities and because of that they should be hyper-vigilant. How many times do celebrity sex tapes and celebrity photo leaks have to happen before celebrities stop taking risque images with their phones and video cameras? If the images and videos were not there, the hackers would have nothing to leak.
Emma Watson No Naked Selfies
Situations like ‘The Fap…I am not using that title, like ‘History’s Biggest Celebrity Hacking Scandal’ are not just the celebrities’ fault. They are not just the hackers fault either. They are the celebrities’ management teams’ fault as well. Where was the management teams’ educated and experienced counsel before this and other previous incidents happened? Did no one sit these celebrities down and say: “To be on the safe side, if you have any suggestive or nude photos, you should erase them and the cached version of those files off of all of your hard drives, cell phones, digital cameras, and cloud storage services. Also, do not take any new ones.”
Obviously, these conservations either didn’t happen or the advice went unheeded.
Celebrities and the high-end businesses that these celebrities work for don’t seem to have good tech people (a tech knowledge-base working for them and their collective interests) at their disposal.
If common-sense, good management, and good tech personnel were at these actresses, celebrities, and businesses’ disposal, the following suggestions would be moot and irrelevant:
Pro tip 1: Even-though an account on Twitter gets suspended, that account’s cached tweets are still available (for a limited amount of time) if you know where to look for them. Example: A certain Twitter user posted a picture of Kate Upton and tiger’s baseball pitcher Justin Verlander to (@) the Tigers’ official twitter account yesterday (August 31, 2014) and got his account suspended. The tweeted message with the photo was humorous though mean-spirited and contained a nude image he was not authorized to distribute. That tweet is still online and available for viewing (if you know what you are doing and what you are looking for during your search).
Pro tip 2: Don’t take nude personal photos (under any circumstances).
Pro tip 3: Don’t make a sex video (under any circumstance).
Pro tip 4: Don’t rely on the goodness of your ex-lover, boyfriend, or girlfriend and let them keep nude photos or videos of you. Confiscate, destroy, and/or erase them.
Pro tip 5: Don’t store damaging photos or videos in online repositories, no matter how secure the company tells you they are. It only takes one genius hacker to crack that company’s safety protocols.
Legal Aftershock of the Leak
Legal teams for the victimized celebrities have been making the Internet rounds this afternoon and this evening (September 1, 2014), issuing taken down notices to site after site hosting the images in published articles.
Kate Upton’s legal team’s comment on their actions:
“This is obviously an outrageous violation of our client Kate Upton’s privacy. We intend to pursue anyone disseminating or duplicating these illegally obtained images to the fullest extent possible.”
Jennifer Lawrence’s legal team’s comment:
“This is a flagrant violation of privacy,” a Lawrence spokesman said in a statement reported by Reuters. “The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence.”
The FBI said it is “addressing the matter,” calling the leak an “unlawful release of material involving high profile individuals.”
Here is the problem: How can you issue a take down order to the cached version of an search engine’s image search results page? How can you issue a take down order to a bittorrent site not based in the US? (you can but when will they actually respond or heed that request?) How can you issue a take down order to a file hosting site where all the files and images have been renamed (meaning that they can’t be casually searched for and found)?
Finally, what about the ‘Deep Web’ (World Wide Web content that is not part of the Surface Web, which is indexed by standard search engines)? How do you issue a take-down order to sites and materials located in that gargantuan, murky realm?
Conclusion: The cat is out of the bag (literally in some of the pictures’ cases) and can never be put back in or contained.
The Timing of the Image Leak
The distributor of these stolen celebrity pictures picked the most advantageous time to release the photos. He did it on a holiday weekend. All the Internet teams that get Google Alerts about their clients or their company so that they can take swift legal action (e.g. issuing take-down orders to webmasters) were at home for the holidays.
That is why those pictures were up all afternoon and last night (August 31, 2014) into this morning and early afternoon (September 1, 2014). No one was in those offices to issue the take-down notices to webmasters (the watchdog personnel all got emergency calls when news of the leaks broke I imagine) and the illegal distributor most-likely knew that before acting.
Sorrow over the Leak
I feel bad for many of the models and actresses this has happened to, many of whom have never appeared nude anywhere previously. Many of these men and women may have never appeared naked anywhere, for any project or photo-shoot.
I have heard people feel mortified after a nude photo leaks. I can only image what some of these actresses are feeling (with the contents of these images and videos on the Internet for everybody to now see). These were intimate, funny, erotic, whimsical moments meant for only one or two people to view.
Some celebrities (e.g. Victoria Justice) have taken the position of denying that it is them in the images, lauding that they are fake. The intrepid though, having done their mischievous due-diligence, have found and matched the clothing and jewelry in those recently leaked nude photos with regular photos of the same celebrities wearing the exact same outfit and/or jewelry.
Age of Instant Access and Instant Gratification
People want access to celebrities and their lives 24/7. This greedy thirst fuels the entire celebrity news machine, a multimillion dollar industry. This need, this longing, that aforementioned industry, fed this picture outbreak and circus. The morality of the act (the releasing of the materials on the Internet) was not even considered or the harm that it would do to the people in those photos and videos.
This, on a far smaller scale, has happened before, and it will happen again. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1. It would seem that some celebrities blithely ignore history or love their personal freedom to the extent that they are willing to risk a theft, breach, or leak of their most candid and intimate moments.
Perhaps they should reconsider that position. It would be the first step in avoiding something like this from every happening again.