On the night of August 31st, 2014, an interesting post on 4chan’s /b/ board stood out amongst the “My Little Pony” pictures, gore threads and dick jokes. The thread that launched the biggest leak of private celebrity photos in history.
Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst and nearly 100 more female celebrities had some of their most private, intimate and explicit personal photos revealed for the entire world to see. This event has been named by the denizens of the Internet “The Fappening”.
The images are now infamous. The celebrities are (rightfully) outraged and a hunt is underway for the scoundrel (or scoundrels) who committed this heist. There is an issue here though, and it’s one that is being placed on a back burner due to the sexual nature of the leaks.
The exploitation of these women and the invasion of their privacy is a grim and major story, one that sells better than the slightly darker one at play. That none of us are safe.
The images were stolen because they were hosted online, in some cases unbeknownst to the very women in them. They were uploaded automatically via cloud storage systems. Systems we all use, and that in reality very few of us understand. Do you, for example, know exactly what images are kept on your iCloud or Google+ account? If you use an iOS or Android device, it’s probably every photo you have ever taken, downloaded, or been sent.
Storing anything personal and sensitive by uploading it to an unseen computer, overseen by someone you will never meet and owned by corporations who have been proven in the past to be selling our data, brings with it the risk of leaks like this.
You are trusting “Big Data” to look after your most important images, messages and details, and they are failing in a spectacular fashion.
When concerns about trusting corporations like Facebook, Apple, Google and Drop Box with our data were first raised, people like Richard Stallman and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) were dismissed as doomsayers, paranoid nerds and (ironically) Luddites.
By giving in to non-free software, i.e. software that doesn’t respect your freedom to simply know what it is and what it does, amongst other things, we are surrendering ourselves to providers of that software. The convenience of a pretty operating system like OSX, a shiny iPhone, a social media site that knows what you like before you do and a search engine that can read your mind comes at the cost of your freedom and privacy. You are not the user; you are being used. You are the product. These services like iCloud and Facebook are traps.
How do you avoid it? Trust in software that is free. Operating systems like Linux are open and do not by default include ways for your private information to be spread to whomever wants it. Ubuntu may be paired with Amazon, but since you have complete control over the operating system you can turn that off.
Do not buy Apple products. Apple forces you into its closed off garden and blinds you with pretty things. Apple is not the alternative to big corporations that they used to be. They are not fighting Big Brother. They are Big Brother. They are the mega-corporation of Gibson’s cyberpunk dystopia. Just because things are shiny and clean doesn’t mean they aren’t evil.
Delete Facebook. Already they have been involved in manipulating your life for questionably moral experiments. And by saying the wrong thing you may find yourself on a foreign government’s watch list. Zuckerburg himself thinks you’re a fool for trusting him with your data. Though he seems to have gone back on this in recent days, maybe he has seen the light. He is still however hoarding your information, conversations and photos, and he is still using them to get insanely rich while eroding your civil liberties.
The more we put our lives in the Cloud and the more we trust in proprietary software, the more of our freedoms and rights are taken away. Wither it be our right to privacy from government agencies, or these celebrities right to privacy from us, the general public. Don’t forget who the people that are slobbering over naked JLaw are.