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A Right to Privacy, But Not an Expectation

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Have you seen them yet?

In case you haven’t heard, there’s evidently an ass-ton of celebrity nudes that a hacker has snatched from the pseudo-secure iCloud service, which automatically uploads photos taken by iPhones to servers to ensure that, if you drop your phone in the toilet, you won’t lose your photos with it. Androids do something similar with Google Drive, and Dropbox will also send your photos to servers in the sky.

That means when someone — say, Jennifer Lawrence, for instance — snaps a photo of herself in the buff, it doesn’t live on the phone alone; it goes to a server, where it becomes a piece of encrypted data stored with redundancy (in case something happens to the server) where, in a perfect world, only Jennifer Lawrence can retrieve it.

iCloud diagram

This is how iCloud works when everything goes as planned. In a perfect world, you would be the only one to see the photos you put in the cloud. Is this a perfect world?

But you know how things go in perfect worlds.

Much has been made since the images began flooding Reddit, 4Chan, imugr, etc., that we shouldn’t look at the photos because they’re not ours to see. I agree with this line of thought, in essence. As a decent human being, I shouldn’t look at someone’s naked body unless they want me to see it. Usually, there’s a price associated with this peek — cost of a movie ticket, for instance, or the cover charge at certain clubs around metro Atlanta. Or, it’s because they’re willing to share themselves without charge, either as models, potential lovers or, in my case, just to freak people out.

Is it “slut-slamming” to attack celebs (or anyone) for taking nude photos of themselves? Yes. The things that you do willingly and in private is no one’s business. However, a right to privacy should not be confused with an expectation of privacy.

Data is fragile, malleable and, with enough elbow grease and resourcefulness, accessible. With constant reports of data breaches and compromised Internet security, worms and viruses and hackers, it’s foolheaded to think that any image you deposit on someone else’s servers (or on a device that someone else controls, i.e., Apple, Google or Microsoft) will remain private.

What happened to Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton has happened to middle school students, teachers, coworkers and perverts. It isn’t unusual in the least, and in fact it occurs with such frequency that any rational person should know better. The only way to be sure that no one will spy you in the shower is to lock the bathroom door and draw the blinds, and the only way to be sure that  your nudes won’t be seen by someone who shouldn’t see them is to not have any.

Is it wrong to search out Lawrence’s nudes? Yes. We have no right to see them just because they exist. We’re peeking over the proverbial bathroom stall of the World Wide Web. It’s gross and creepy. They’re private and are available only because of someone’s misdeeds.

But don’t act indignant because someone did get them or people have seen them. A right to privacy is one thing; an expectation for privacy is another thing altogether.