This blog was first published in Dawn.
The internet was taken by storm when nude pictures of over a 100 celebrities were leaked and published on the internet. They are everywhere. Twitter is abuzz with comments ranging from “don’t take pictures if you don’t want them to be public” to “how sharing or looking at the images is partaking in abuse”. Somewhere in between are conversations about intimacy in the world of social media, leaks and hacking. Initial reports suggested that hackers targeted the iCloud accounts of the high-profile celebrities, there have been speculations about bugs that may be involved in making the hacking easier. What’s worth noting is that some of the leak pictures had long been deleted, so how were they being accessed again?
That brings us the question, how long is our data allowed to live on the internet before it is buried deep into the cyberspace, possibly too hard to find? are cloud services doing enough to protect user data? can we truly remove data from our devices in its entirety and without a trace? Privacy buffs will tell you, the only way to remove data from a hard drive, SD card, USB or a phone is to destroy it. There are programs like ‘eraser’ that allow one to hard delete data, but as technology allows for more intensive intrusion there’s fear that your intimate moments if caught on camera may continue to live on. So then, if you do not want intimate visuals to ever be made public, you simply stop taking them? That approach, although advises caution, is deeply problematic, as it inherently justifies abuse and victim blaming. If she/he did not want people to look at her private photos why did she/have to take them? It’s also a heavy handed snub that tells us that expecting privacy in the world of internet is a long dead phenomena. Blaming the internet or the victim for violation of privacy, is an ill informed and condescending approach that justifies and perpetuates abuse.
It perpetuates abuse as it overlooks consent. You are looking at visuals that were intended to be shared privately, the individual photographed had consented to taking these pictures and sharing them with another. The fact that these pictures exists, in no way makes them okay for public sharing, the absence of consent makes the sharing and viewing of these pictures an abuse. Justifying the act in itself or the leak by blaming the victim makes a textbook case for rape culture, whereby you ought to be careful if you did not intend to be abused or raped.
In a world where 24 hour CCTV cameras are our reality, it is willful delusion to blame individuals for not being “careful” enough. Victim blaming has not, will not and has never been a solution. Caution is necessary, learning about one’s digital security even more so but this incidence says more about a collective greed for snooping into people’s private lives than anything else. This is the same phenomena that makes revenge porn, sneaky paparazzi shoots and leaked conversations a massive business model. It sells, it generates hits and it also brings all the creeps out of the woods. Since those sharing the pictures, insist it is naive to expect privacy that anything put up on the internet must always remain forever and public, it provides for the public opportunity to identify and publicly shame individuals who prey on one’s privacy, partake and perpetuate abuse. After all, if you didn’t want your fetishes made public, why did you prey on others?
The hack was performed through guessing security questions, it has been said. Security questions are just like the irritating password policies workplaces have – they create vulnerabilities, not enhance security.