The recent leak of celebrity nude photos raises several ethical and pragmatic issues. Most importantly, it goes without saying that pictures that are meant for the eyes of a few should not be leaked to many. Taking nude photos is not illegal, but it is illegal–not to mention immoral–to leak those photos without permission.
Aside from the fundamental violation of privacy, the leak of celebrities’ nude photos raises several important issues, two being the increasing security necessary online, and the duty for the news media to report responsibly.
First, the fact that hackers could access celebrities’ iCloud accounts means that there exists a potential to access other sensitive information via iCloud, such as credit card numbers and social security numbers.
What if there were an even more massive leak? With the increasing necessity to share sensitive information online, few would be safe. That being said, two-step verification log-ins are increasingly necessary.
Apple currently offers this. It works by sending a verification code to a designated “trusted device” before allowing you–or anyone–to log into an unknown device. Many users are unaware of this feature, or simply want to avoid the hassle of waiting for a verification code while logging in on a different device.
In the long-term, the additional few moments it takes to log in could save users a lot of trouble.
Second, the celebrity nude photo leak would arguably have been less of a spectacle if the media had reported on it more responsibly–or perhaps even less. This incident illustrates a textbook example of the Streisand effect.
In 2003, Barbara Streisand–a rather private person–had photos of her residence leaked. She made an extensive effort to have the photos removed, but ultimately, this effort resulted in extensive media coverage. Media coverage allowed people to hear about the pictures who might have never known otherwise. Once their interest had been piqued, they naturally sought out the pictures, the media covered the ever-growing leak, ad nauseam.
While Streisand certainly did not deserve to have photos of her residence leaked, the intimate nature of nude photos adds an even more perverse element. The leaking of celebrities’ nude photos exemplifies a culture of self-entitlement. When anyone takes intimate pictures, it is the lawful and ethical responsibility of the recipient to keep those photos private. Just because a burglar can break your window to access your possessions does not mean he should.
In both cases, the leaked photos could have arguably reached fewer people had the media avoided such extensive reporting (we say this with a wry self-awareness). But even if the media had not discussed the leaked photos, it is likely that people would have found out anyway via social media, especially in the celebrities’ cases.
Regardless, seeking out what one should not seek out might be a human character flaw, but extensive and redundant reporting is certainly not the remedy.