By now everyone knows that a number of (primarily young, almost exclusively female) Hollywood stars had compromising pictures of themselves posted to a public Internet site, provoking much social commentary.
The reason for this post is not the fact that it happened–it happens frequently, and sometimes goes under the heading of ‘revenge porn’. What is more interesting, from my point of view, is the nature of the reactions.
I was discussing this story with some of my younger colleagues at C&IT the other day, and found their response simultaneously startling and familiar. Their answer was ‘Who cares?!! Privacy is dead, get over it.’
What was startling was that I have friends who actually feel that way. What was familiar was the meme ‘privacy is dead’. It was first said in that form by Scott McNealy in 1999. For those who aren’t familiar with McNealy, he was the founder of Sun Microsystems, an early major computer hardware and software company (responsible, among other things for Java, MySQL and NFS).
Discussion of the leaked nude photos has varied widely. The initial response was outrage, particularly from some of the celebrities themselves (although some have also claimed that the photos were fake, for which there is some forensic evidence). On the other hand, much of the early response consisted of statements that could be paraphrased as ‘if you don’t want nude pictures circulating on the internet, don’t take them.’
Interestingly, subsequent commentary has had two directions. One is to suggest that blaming the stars for having nude pictures floating around is like blaming women for being raped because they wore [fill in your favorite meme] clothing.
On the other hand, a number of commentators have suggested the fault lies in the poor security structure of iCloud, or perhaps of the iPhone (apparently a hack of the Find My iPhone may have permitted the Apple cloud storage system to be breached, although that vulnerability has since been patched).
Other commentators (including my buddy Nick Gillespie) have suggested that this is something for which the cure would be worse than the disease.
Finally, danah boyd, a radical feminist blogger who works for Microsoft (yes, you read that right) wrote very thoughtfully several years ago about the morality of ‘outing’ people on the Internet, an activity somewhat related to this.
I have no words of wisdom to provide here–I’m an onlooker watching how the world is changing around me. Thoughts?